This article deals with ‘ Trade and Commerce from 200 BC to 300 AD ’. This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is an important pillar of GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you canclick here.
Silk Route extended was 4,350 km long stretching from Lo-yang on Hwang – He in China to Cteisiphon on Tigris in West Asia.
There was flourishing long-distance trade during this period corroborated by
Texts: Jataka Stories has stories of trade with Suvarnadvipa (South East Asia) and Ratnadvipa (LANKA) , Sangam Poetry (Indo-Roman trade) , Periplus Maris Erythraei etc.
Archaeology: Dwarka & Bet Dwarka in Gujarat, Kaveripattinam, Muziris etc.
A major stimulus to trade was due to
The demand for Chinese silk in the Mediterranean Region. Chinese silk was traded through India rather than being sent directly. The reason was the political situation. Parthians were powerful rulers along the North-Western boundary of the Indian subcontinent. There was constant hostility between them & the Roman Empire. Hence, trade routes between China & the Roman Empire were disturbed. (Route : China TO India via Silk Route => Indian Ports of Barbaricum (on Indus) & Baroach => Alexandria)
Existence of Kushana rule which provided stability & safety to trade + reduction in tariffs.
Traders started to take advantage of Monsoon winds. Periplus speaks about Hippalus’s discovery of Monsoon winds.
Trade with China was disturbed at the end of the 3rd century because of certain reasons like Han Dynasty ended in 220 AD, the Byzantine Empire broke away from Rome and Kushana Empire collapsed. However trade didn’t end altogether, there were some changes in routes. Trade shifted southward with the main emphasis on oceanic trade (i.e. earlier Silk to India was brought overland and then from India went to the Mediterranean world by Sea but now whole supply route shifted to Sea Route).
Trade with East & South-East Asia
Earlier, the relation between India & South-East Asia seen as political & cultural colonisation of the latter. But that perception has changed now as there were reciprocal links between India & South Asia.
Ancient Sanskrit & Pali Text refer to South Asia as Suvarnadvipa & Suvarnabhumi i.e. land of gold and associated with riches.
Since coinage was absent in SE Asia – trade must have been Barter or with the use of cowrie shells .
Major imports & exports included
1. Cotton Cloth 2. Sugar 3. Certain kind of pottery
Some of these items especially Spices were shipped to the western world. Trade in spices was an attempt to meet the great demand of spices from the Roman world. Indian production alone couldn’t satisfy their needs.
Indo – Roman Trade
Trade increased during this period because
By the end of the last century BCE, Rome emerged
as the superpower of the Mediterranean world, displacing the Greek
kingdoms, and the republic became an empire in 27 BCE under Emperor
Augustus. Rome was the largest and wealthiest city in the world and wealth
of Rome greatly increased the demand for various products from India,
especially the spices and textiles of the Tamil country, resulting in a
great expansion of trade.
Discovery of the pattern of monsoon winds in the Arabian
Sea in the first century CE by Hippalus, an Egyptian sailor. Till then,
only Arabs had the knowledge of these winds giving them monopoly of trade
between India and Mediterranean world.
Overland route between India and Roman Empire became
vulnerable to attacks by Parthians in Iran due enmity between Romans and
Items of Export
Spices (especially Pepper)
Silk came from China to India and from India send to Roman World
Cotton fabric from Madurai
Items of Import
wheat for the Graeco-Romans in the Tamil ports.
Indians imported very few goods but were eager to get precious metal, so quest for Roman gold was driving force behind India’s International trade.
Large number of Roman coins have been discovered, especially in South India .
Roman Kings whose coins found
– Maximum coins belonged to the reign of Augustus (31 BC -14 AD) and Tiberius (14 AD – 37 AD) . \ – Interestingly , their local imitations also found .
Post-Nero (64AD) due to debasement of Roman currency shortage of Roman Coins seen.
Issue of Drain of Gold from the Roman Empire
Roman Gold was the main item of demand in return for Indian Exports (especially spices) .
Periplus & Sangam poems tell us about the ships of Yavannas coming with gold & returning with black pepper.
Romilla Thappar has called Black Pepper as Black Gold of India due to gold India was getting in return for pepper
In fact drain of wealth was so much that Romans became anxious. Roman historian Pliny complained of the trade with the east being a serious drain on the income of Rome. 1/5th of gold used in trade was being sent to India for Spice Trade
Impact of Trade on other fields
1 . Impact on Science
Two branches of science were surely impacted
Deep-sea navigation required reliable study of stars. Hence, it received a mercantile patronage.
Astronomy also developed due to the exchange of ideas with West Asia where this field was already very much developed.
Indian herbal knowledge reached the western world.
Greek botanist Theophrastus in ‘History of Plants’ tells about the medicinal use of various Indian plants and herbs .
2. Impact on Culture
2.1 Western World
North India was very much impacted by
Hellenistic ideas as
The emergence of Gandhara art.
Indian folk-tales and fables travelled westwards (Panchatantra) .
Chaturanga – chess using four traditional wings of army & played by 4 players reached Persia.
Certain aspects of the life of Christ-like supernatural birth & temptation by Devil influenced by legends of life of Buddha .
2.2 Central Asia
Buddhism reached to Central Asia through Traders.
Indian traders patronised Buddhist Monasteries at places like Kashgar, Kucha, Khotan etc.
Goods of Chinese origin started to be used in India. Bamboo, Chinese Patta etc. clearly show that they were Chinese.
Buddhist missionaries arrived in China & established themselves at Famous White House Monastery at Lo Yang (starting point of Silk Route) .
2.4 South East Asia
Legends about the origin of kingdoms in south-east Asia trace the story back to Indian princes and merchants. Eg: Indian brahman, Kaundinya, is said to have married a Cambodian princess, & introduced Indian culture to Cambodia.
Indian literature narrates the adventures of Indian travellers in these part .
This article deals with ‘ Sangam Literature ’. This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is an important pillar of GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you canclick here.
What is Sangam Literature?
is oral bardic literature belonging to time period 200 BC to 300 AD.
The legend associated with Sangam Poetry
History of the Sangam is clogged in legends.
says there were three Sangams patronised by Pandyas when Scholars assembled to
publish their works . Work of only last one survives .
Sangam is of Indo Aryan Origin
and is used nowhere in Sangam Literature.
Scholars like Kamil Zvelebil argue that it should be called Classical
In reality, Poems were not the product of Sangam. Poems
were much earlier composed in oral form by Bards between 200 BC to 300 CE. Word Sangam
was associated with them when commentaries on it were written in 12-14th
Century under Pandya patronage .
entire corpus of Sangam literature
These poems were written by
Bards who roamed about singing in praise of
their patron chiefs and heroes .
Some were also composed by scholarly poets
who followed the bardic tradition like Kapilar
and Gautamanar .
Two genre i.e. Akam and Puram
The whole text is presented in two genres
– Love poems – Deal with the inner life of people . – Love is expressed in separation & union ; before or after marriage & extramarital love .
Deals with the outer life
Speak of public celebration of the feats of the heroes even the death of
heroes in wars .
Tinai Concept & Sangam Poems
According to the Tinai concept, Tamilaham was divided into five
landscapes or eco-regions, Aintinai namely Kurinji, Palai Mullai, Marutam and
Neital. Each region had distinct characteristics – a presiding deity, people
and cultural life according to the environmental conditions .
meeting of the hero and the heroine
Separation of lovers
waiting on the part of wife for the return of her husband from a journey
quarrel due to hero’s infidelity
the lover’s absence
Problem in Dating
There is problem in dating as
periods are represented in Sangam
Period of actual composition and oral transmission : 2nd
century B.C. to A.D. 3rd century.
Period of the
codification when written form was given : 6th and 9th centuries.
the commentaries : 12th – 14th
centuries ( under Pandyan rulers of Madurai) – These commentaries
infact give name Sangam to whole corpus
it is hard to clearly sort out the earlier from the later as they
are all mixed up
Sangam Poetry doesn’t speak through
his / her own persona but uses various characters such as heroine , her
friend , her foster mother or hero as his mouthpiece .
Spanned over a few centuries, the poems
reflect the gradual development of the Tamil language and literature.
It is a great source of
Socio-Economic life as well . Poets have taken real life situations for similes,
metaphors etc .
Consist of 8 collections of Poems (out of 8, 6 belong to Sangam Period)
– Ten songs – 9 out of 10 songs belong to Sangam Age .
Tolkappiyam (Author –
Tolkapiyar) is a work of Tamil Grammar. Earliest parts of the first two books of Tolkappiyam
belong to Sangam Period & rest
belong to later date
corresponding to 400-500 AD .
Sangam Literature is not a homogenous corpus either in time or in style but spread over vast time of 5 centuries and later additions in main texts .
These were quite
created by bards in praise of heroes & powerful chiefs.
Side Topic : Importance of these bards
Most important basis of legitimisation of political power in south India was eulogy of poets . Poet’s praise of generosity & heroism of King that could attain lasting fame for him & conversely , poet’s anger could prove costly .
Sangam texts are secular in nature because unlike Vedic texts , they were composed by various poets in praise of heroes & heroines .
What Sangam Poems tell ?
1 . Sangam Poems are pervaded with a warrior ethic .
The goal of the hero of Puram poems was Pukal (glory , fame) and heroic death was greatly valued.
It was believed that the spirit of a warrior who died in battle dwelt in Paradise. A poem suggests that those who didn’t die in battle were cut with swords before funerary rights to simulate death in battle.
“If a child of my clan should die,
if it is born dead, a mere gob of flesh
not yet human,
They will put it to the sword, to give the thing a warrior’s death”
Losing one’s life in the
battle, and that too with wounds on the chest was considered a great
honour. On the contrary, wounds on the back were considered a sign of
cowardice or disgrace. Numerous poems speak about the delight of brave
mothers over the death of their sons in the battle with wounds on the
When she heard that her son fell in battle Felling an elephant,
Was greater than at his birth”
The practice of Vattakiruthal is also mentioned in which defeated king committed ritual suicide by starving himself to death.
2. Cult of Hero Worship
Chiefs needed strong warriors. To attract , warriors were rewarded with
the booty or land, if they happened to be alive. But more important was their reward if they lose their life by making
them on par with Gods through Sangam Poems .
In ancient Sangam poetry,
Tamilaham is portrayed as a combination of five Tinais (Aintinai) or 5
Ecozones and bards tried to correlate the activities to ecological
perceptions. (as explained above)
Three type of
Chiefs were mentioned in Sangam poems
Headman of village(Ur)
Some were subjugated by
bigger chiefs and they served them in campaigns & awarded in return .
Intermediate chiefs who
were less powerful than Vendars .
They were many in number
and controlled the territories of varied geographical nature, mainly
hilly and forest areas, that were in between the muvendar’s fertile
the most powerful chiefdoms. There were
three Vendars also known as Muvendars . These included Chera, Chola and
Pandya . They
controlled the fertile territories and thus had more resources at their
They also patronised the
bards and poets so that they glorified their name and fame.
Main concern of Vendars was subordination of
who were next in importance. For this, they adopted following ways :-
Subjugation through combats . Marriage alliances : Cholas, Cheras &
Pandyas often took daughters of Velir as wife.
5. Interaction between south and north
Sangam poems also reflect
emergence of new basis of
of Brahmanical sacrifices , establishing links with northern epic
traditions etc .
Certain chiefs were described
in poems to have emerged from sacrificial fire pits of northern sages like
Sangam poets were
familiar with the Mahabharata and Ramayana legends and infact Chola, Chera
and Pandya kings claim to have fed the warring armies on the eve of war.
6. Trade with Yavanas
Sangam Poems refers to Yavanas (Romans) coming by ships into ports of
South India bringing Gold and wine and sailing away with cargoes of Pepper from Kaveripattanam and
7. Social Classification
The social classification of Varna was known to Sangam Poets. There is
mention of Arashar (King) , Vaishiyar (traders) & Velalar (farmers) .
Brahmins are also mentioned .
However, 4 fold varna classification had little application to ancient Tamil Society. More relevant
basis of classification was Kuti which were clan based descent groups . Although associated with lineage and
hereditary occupation , there were no real restrictions on inter dining
and social interactions among Kuti Groups.
8. Position of Women
were 30 women composers .
In these poems, women appear to be regularly labouring in the production
process along with the men in different contexts . 60% of the agricultural
process were associated with the women.
We also find that , women were
engaged in rearing of sheep and cattle (in Pasture Zone) . In Coastal Zone , they were
engaged in Salt manufacturing .
There are also references of
kings employing women bodyguards.
Women also appear in
Sangam texts as proud and glorified
mothers of heroes .
Sangam poems speak about
various types of prostitutes and illicit and stealthy love is also a
poems also tell about the various deities worshipped by people of Tamilaham in Sangam
period . These deities were also associated with different Ecological
Zones or Tinais . Now it is considered
that seeds of Bhakti in south India lies
in Sangam age.
This article deals with ‘Indian Dynasties during 200 BC to 300 AD ’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is an important pillar of GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you canclick here.
Period between circa 200 B.C.
and A.D. 300 in conventional historical writings is called dark period because of the absence of
territorial large imperial dynasty (with the
exception of Kushanas).
But viewed differently, this
period was important due to following developments
extensive economic & cultural contacts within country
and with West and Central Asia (through silk
road , maritime etc.).
Evolution of new art forms at Mathura, Sarnath, Sanchi and Amravati.
Exalted notion of kingship developed with its pompous titles & identification with divinity .
State formation outside Northern
India happened . Eg: Kalinga
under Kharvela and
Satavahanas in Deccan.
Centre of power moved North West (from
Gangetic Plains) due to various
City life spread ,
trade flourished and use of metallic money as medium of exchange
Devotional worship of images in shrines started.
Sources of Information
1 . Jataka Stories
Jatakas were written during this period.
Jataka contains many stories of ordinary people, traders & travellers .
2 . Puranas
Puranas and Epics are rich source of information on Dynasties and emergence of early Hindu cults .
3.1 Manava Dharmasutra aka Manu Smriti (Source for 200 BC to 200 AD)
Manu Smriti was written in 2-3rd Century BC. But the laws codified in it influenced the life from 200BC to 200AD.
Text vigorously defended Brahmanical privileges against enemies personified as Shudras & Mlechchhas & sought to strengthen the old alliance between Kings & Brahmanas .
3.2 Yajnavalkya Smriti (100 AD to 300 AD)
Yajnavalkya Smriti gives glimmers of society between circa
100 to 300 AD.
4 . Sanskrit Literature
Sanskrit works were written during this time. Eg :
Later works of Mahayana thinkers such as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu etc. are all in Sanskrit.
5 . Mahabhashya
Mahabhashya is a commentary on Panini’s Ashtadhayayi written by Patanjali .
Patanjali was contemporary of Pushyamitra Shunga .
6 . Epics
composition of the greater portions of two epics , namely,
7. Sangam Literature
Sangam Literature is the name
given to Tamil literature which gives insight into the social, political,
religious etc. life in the region known as Tamilaham.
It is the main source of
knowledge about the polity and administration of early Cheras, Cholas and
8. Graeco – Roman Texts
Works of Arrian, Strabo, Ptolemy & Pliny the elder were
written during this period.
(c. AD 150)
Historia (about 79 AD)
8.1 Periplus Maris Erythraei
This book was authored by an unknown Egyptian Greek involved in the trade who travelled from the Red Sea to India (around 80 BC) & wrote a book based on his experience & observation.
He left a record of its ports, harbours and merchandise. This book gives us an idea of maritime activities.
‘Periplus’ claims that Hippalus a mariner, was knowledgable about the monsoon winds that shortens the round-trip from India to the Red Sea and vice versa.
8.2 Vienna Papyrus
This document was written in the 2nd Century AD in Greek (language).
The document is presently preserved in the Vienna Museum and hence known as Vienna Papyrus.
It records terms of business deal & loan between two shippers of Alexandria & Muziri.
It also tells about the route, how commodities reached from Muziri to Alexandria.
9. Chinese Accounts
Chinese texts named Ch’ien Han-Shu & Hou Han-Shu gives us information on movement & migration of people in Central Asia.
10 . Archaeology
North India : Late NBPW & Post NBPW levels represent the period between 200 BC and 300 AD.
Deccan & South India: This period corresponds to the transition from later Megalithic Phase to Early Urban Phase.
Range & number of inscriptions increased dramatically.
North India – Royal inscriptions reflect the transition from Prakrit towards Sanskrit.
South India – Earliest inscription made an appearance.
Royal inscriptions – Provide details dynastic histories.
Ordinary inscriptions – contain a record of pious donations made by ordinary men.
Expansion of state polities and the spread of urban centres led to the development of coinage.
Indo – Greeks: Almost all information about them comes from their coins.
Kushanas coins: dealt in the chapter.
Roman coins provide us with information about Indo-Roman trade interactions.
City coins issued by urban administration like Ujjain , Vidisha & Taxila etc.
1. North India Dynasties
Shungas were Brahmins from Ujjain & worked as an official under Maurayas.
This dynasty was founded by Pushymitra Shunga.
Important rulers of Shungas
Pushyamitra assassinated the last Mauryan king Brihadratha in 180 BC (works of Banabhata corroborate this).
He was a Brahmin himself and supporter of Brahmanism. He performed Ashvameda Yajna after proclaiming the throne.
Buddhist sources like ‘Divyavadana’ depicts that he persecuted Buddhists & destroyed many Buddhist monasteries.
His kingdom extended only over Pataliputra (capital), Ayodhya & Vidisha.
From Malvikagnimitrum (of Kalidasa), we come to know that he faced various incursions of Yavanas (Bactrian Greeks) in the North West but was able to defeat them with help of his grandson (Agnimitra Shunga).
According to Puranas, he reigned for 36 years & succeeded by his grandson Agnimitra Shunga.
Malvikagnimitram (of Kalidasa) presents a different picture of Shunga rule under Agnimitra than that presented by Divyavadana.
There were frequent clashes with Bactrian Greeks during his reign as well. Patanjali (2nd century BC grammarian) states that Yavanas were able to come up to Saketa .
10 Shunga kings are supposed to have ruled 112 years.
They too became a victim of a conspiracy masterminded by Brahmana minister Vasudeva Kanava who started Kanava Dynasty.
Side Topic: Besnagar Inscription of Heliodorus
Besnagar is situated near Vidisha.
Here Heliodorus (ambassador of Greek king Antialkidas) constructed Pillar of Garuda (vehicle of Vishnu) with inscription in Prakrit.
This shows that Shungas continued the Mauryan tradition of entertaining greek ambassadors.
In the inscription, Greek ambassador describes himself to be a worshipper of God Vasudeva Krishna.
This pillar is quite different from earlier Maurya pillars. (it was small, not polished and not monolithic) .
Indo-Greeks are known as ‘Yavanas’ in Indian sources.
They were originally Satraps (principalities) of Seleucid Empire of West Asia. Later, the Seleucid Empire started to weaken. As a result, around 250 BC, Governor of Bactria, Diodotus, revolted and started to rule as an independent ruler of Bactria with capital at Bactra (Majar-e-Sharif).
Most important Indo-Greek king was Menander who can be identified as King Milinda of book Milindapanha who poses a number of question to Buddhist Monk Nagasena and reigned between 165-130 BC. He is said to have ruled a large kingdom as his coins have been found over an extensive area ranging from the valleys of the Kabul and Indus rivers to as far as western Uttar Pradesh. The incident shown in Milindapanha is claimed to have resulted in Menander’s conversion to Buddhism. This was a period when Greeks were interested in Buddhism, so such a manual is extremely useful to know about the propagation of religion.
Another Indo-Greek king whose name is remembered is Antialcidas (or Antialkidas), (c. 110 BC). He is known to us primarily because his emissary, Heliodorus, was sent to the court of King Bhagabhadra and he erected a pillar with its capital adorned by a figure of Garuda, in honour of God Krishna (Vasudeva). Heliodorus had evidently become a follower of Vasudeva Krishna.
Coins of Indo-Greek Kings
Distinguishing feature of the reign of the Indo-Greek kings was their exquisite coinage. These coins carried the portrait of the reigning king on one side with his name and Greek or Indian deities on the other side.
Most of these coins were bilingual with Greek Language-Greek Script & Prakrit Language-Kharosthi Script.
34 out of 45 Indo Greek kings were known through the coins .
They also help us to date the rise of sects . Eg : Krishna Vasudeva and Balarama depicted on Indo-Greek coins shows that they were important deities.
Coins of Sakas , Parthians & Kushanas followed basic features of Indo-Greek coins including bilingual & bi-script .
Indo-Greek coins introduced innovations in Indian numismatics, such as
use of legends
portraits of rulers
representation of deities.
Fall of Indo-Greeks
Attack from Scythian tribes: With the construction of the Chinese Wall, the Scythians could not move towards China and in turn attacked Greeks and Parthians. Parthians in return also started to attack Greeks. Hence, by about 165 BCE, Bactria was lost to the Parthians and Sakas. After this, the Indo-Greeks continued to rule in central and southern Afghanistan and north-western India.
The Greeks continued to be beset with internal squabbles among many claimants to power, and the names of more than thirty kings can be identified from their coins. It is possible that they all ruled small pockets as autonomous rulers and issued their own coinage.
Significance of their rule
They introduced the Hellenistic art features in north-western India which culminated in the Gandhara art style.
Coinage of Indo-Greeks was far ahead of their time in quality and aesthetics which impacted the later coinage in India .
Side Topic: Movements of the Pastoralists & building of Empires
Greek kingdoms declined in north-west due to attack on Bactria by nomadic peoples from central Asia.
Scythians/ Sakas inhabited the region around Lake Issyk-Kul and the river Jaxartes. They were attacked by Yueh-Chih/Yuezhi forcing Scythians to migrate westward.
Yueh-Chih (original home – west China) attacked Scythians because they were attacked by Xiung Nu (Hunas).
Xiung Nu were impacted because their pastures dried up and Chinese Emperor Shi Huang Ti built THE GREAT WALL restricting their movement and raids toward China.
(Source : Hou Han Shu and Chien Han Shu )
Sakas aka Scythians were originally the inhabitants of Central Asia (the region around Lake Issyk-Kul and river Jaxartes).
Sources sometimes mention Scythians & Parthians together as Saka-Pahlawa.
Sakas destroyed the Greek suzerainty over Bactria with their continuous attacks.
There were many branches of Sakas ruling simultaneously like
Settled in Afghanistan
Settled in Punjab. Ruled with Taxila as their capital.
Ruled from Mathura.
Established themselves in Western & Central India. Their rule continued till the 4th century AD.
In India, the Sakas assimilated into the Hindu society. They began to adopt Hindu names and religious beliefs, so much so that their coins had representations of Hindu gods on one side.
Main rulers of Sakas
1 . Maues / Moga
He was the earliest Saka King in Gandhara with rule starting from circa 80 BCE.
We come to know about Maues from his coins & inscriptions.
He also established Stupa during his period.
2. Azes I
Azes I succeeded Maues.
He successfully attacked and defeated the last Indo-Greek king in North India (Hippostratos) and extended Saka rule as far as Mathura.
Inscription of Azes I has led BN Mukherjee to conclude that it was Azes I who started an era around 57 BC known as Vikram Era. Hence, a ruler who started an era in 57 BC wasn’t Vikramaditya but Saka ruler Azes I.
3 . Azilises & Azes II
Azilises succeeded Azes 1 who was further succeeded by Azes II.
They were definitely controlling Taxila and their control extended tIll Ganga Yamuna Doab.
They are largely known from their inscriptions.
He is one of the most famous Saka Kshatrapas who ruled between 130–150 CE.
His exploits are celebrated in the famous rock inscription of Junagadh (in Gujarat).
According to the inscription, he had even defeated the Satavahanas in battle.
His name indicates that the process of assimilation into Indian society was complete by that time.
Title of Saka Kings
Saka Kings used Iranian title King of Kings (Shahanu Shahi)
This point towards the existence of lesser chieftains or smaller kings.
There were Provincial Governors known as Kshatrapas & Mahakshatrapas who were appointed by the king.
=> Hence, there was a confederation of chieftains headed by the Saka Kings.
But Chieftains and Governors exercised a considerable degree of autonomy.
Sakas along with Parthians introduced Satrap system. It was similar to Achaemenid & Seleucid systems in Iran in which
Kingdom was divided into Provinces.
Each Province was under a Provincial Governor called Mahakshatrapa (The Great Satrap).
Governors with lower status were called Kshatrapas (Satraps).
Governors enjoyed AUTONOMY. They issued their own inscriptions & minted their own coins.
Later, these Kshatrapas asserted their independence.
1.4 Parthians aka Pahlawas
Rule of Sakas & Parthians was simultaneous in North & North-West India.
Parthians originated in Iran & later moved to Indo- Iranian borderlands .
Most prominent Parthian King.
Ruled in first century A.D.
Area: Kabul to Panjab
St. Thomas travelled to his court for the propagation of Christianity
Their rule was marked by scarcity
of silver coins .
It is possible that silver coins of predecessors i.e. Sakas and Indo – Greeks
served their needs .
Their rule ended with rise of the
Parthians assimilated in the Indian
They are mentioned in Chinese Annals as Yueh Chi living around Lake Ysyk Kol. They were attacked & defeated by Xiung Nu (Hunas) and subsequently, Yueh Chi moved westwards.
There were 5 Yeuh- Chi principalities & one was Kuei – Shang (Kushanas) with capital (initial) at Bactra (Majar e Sharif).
He established control south of Hindu-Kush Mountains and issued coins suggesting association with Buddhism .
2. Vima Kadphises
He was the son of Kujula Kadphises.
He expanded the empire to Kabul, Indus Valley & Mathura region.
He was the first in Indian subcontinent to issue gold coins.
His coins suggest an association with Shiva.
Kushana rule reached its zenith during his reign.
His reign began in 78 AD which also marks the start of Shaka Era.
His central Asian identity with boots, coat etc. is imprinted on a statue, unfortunately headless, found near Mathura.
His empire consisted of
Central Asia up to the north of Oxus river
Towards the end of his reign, he led an unsuccessful military campaign against Chinese in which his forces were defeated & he was forced to pay tribute.
He is celebrated as the patron of Buddhism. Northern Buddhists claimed that Kanishka organised the Fourth Buddhist Council to clarify Buddhist doctrine ( parallel to Theravada (South) Buddhism claim that Ashoka organised 3rd Council). A most significant outcome of this council was (1) recognition to new Buddhist sects and (2) Missionaries were sent to Central Asia.
But given the territorial span, royal patronage was extended to Buddhism, Jainism, Bhagavata and Shaiva sects, Zoroastrianism and Hellenistic cults. Various deities like Shiva, Buddha, Nana & many other West-Asian divinities can be found on their coins.
His immediate successors were Vasishka, Huvishka, Kanishka 2 & Vasudeva I.
Empire started to decline from the time of Vasudeva I & Vasudeva 2 was last Kushana ruler. Their rule ended in 262 AD.
Kushana coins were of the highest quality and conformed to the weight standards of Roman coins.
In the coins, Kushana rulers are referred to as “king of kings”, “Caesar”, “lord of all lands” and by other such titles. Unfortunately, the titles did not leave much room on the coins for the actual name of the ruler.
Kushana coins tell us that Kushanas were eclectic. Different divinities like Shiva, Buddha, Nana etc. on their coins corroborate this fact.
Coins of Kushanas shows that Kushanas were appropriating Divine Status for the Kings because of features like a halo around the head, flames on shoulders etc.
Importance of the Kushana coins in international transactions is borne out by the discovery of Kushana coins in Ethiopia.
Art and Literature during Kushanas
During the reign of Kushanas, art and literature flourished. This was partly due to royal patronage and partly due to other factors, like the growing ascendancy of Mahayana Buddhism, which allowed the representation of the person of Buddha in human form.
Two separate schools of art developed during this period
Gandhara School: It was influenced by Greeks and also known as Indo-Greek style of sculpture and art.
Mathura School: It was red sandstone sculpture produced in areas around Mathura.
Buddhists began to carve out rock caves in the hills of western India, which served as religious centres with chaityas and viharas, stretching from the Ajanta caves to the Kanheri caves in Mumbai. Large statues of Buddha were sculpted in these caves as a part of the Mahayana tradition.
Kanishka was the patron of Buddhist philosophers such as Asvaghosha (writer of Buddhacharita and Sariputraprakarana), Parsva and Vasumitra, as well as the great Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna. Among the Hindu treatises, Manusmriti and Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra took final shape during this period.
2. South India
Mahameghavahanas were ruled Kalinga in Orissa (earlier Kalinga was conquered by Asoka from the local power).
During Post-Maurya period again came under the local line of rulers named Mahameghavahana who descended from an ancient line of the Chedis.
He was the third Mahameghavahana ruler.
Important Source: Hathigumpha Cave Inscription (near Bhubaneswar) which provides the following information
It gives a year-wise account of his reign.
Tell his military victories in north, west and south India .
Undertook many public works.
As practising Jaina excavated cave-shelters for Jaina monks on Udayagiri hills.
Agricultural Expansion: Kharavela refers to irrigation canals built by the Nandas, but proudly mentions his own efforts in this direction.
Kharavela did not issue coins. It is possible that theKalingan economy was not yet ready for its own coinage.
Mahameghavahana Dynasty collapsed after his demise .
Satavahanas are the Andhras of Puranas.
Gatha Saptasati, a Prakrit text composed by the Satavahana king Hala.
Inscriptions like Naneghat & Nashik inscription.
Account of Pliny: Eg – Andhra country had 30 walled cities and a large army of 1 lakh infantry, 2000 cavalry & 1000 elephants.
Accounts of Periplus in Periplus Maris Erythraei.
Coins of Satavahanas. Eg – Coins of Yajnashri Satkarni has ship on the coins showing the importance of Trade & Commerce.
Although there is controversy about dates but a sequence of rulers is fairly clear.
1 . Initial rulers
Satavahana dynasty was founded by Simuka who was followed by Kanha (brother of Simuka) followed by Satakarni I.
2. Satkarni I
Naganika (wife of Satkarni I) in his Naneghat inscription describes him as Lord of Dakshinapatha who performed two Ashvamedha Yajanas.
3. Gautamiputra Satkarni
Gautamiputra Satakarni was the greatest of the Satavahana kings.
He defeated the Shaka ruler Nahapana and reissued the coins of Nahapana with his own royal insignia.
Achievements are engraved in Inscription of his mother (Gautami Balashri) in Nashik. He is described as the destroyer of Shakas, Pahlavas, & Yavanas.
He is also said to haveperformed the prestigious Vedic Asvamedha sacrifice.
Towards the end of his reign, he suffered defeats from Rudradaman I.
4 . Vasishthiputra Pulumayi
Vasishthiputra Pulumayi, the successor of Gautamiputra Satakarni, expanded the frontiers of the Satavahana Empire. The coins issued by him are found scattered in many parts of south India.
5. Yajnashri Satkarni
Yajnashri Satkarni was another famous ruler who issued coins with a ship motif, indicating the importance of the overseas trade during his reign.
Satavahana dynasty came to end in mid 3rd century CE . The breakup of empire paved way for the rise of
Vakatakas in Deccan
Kadambas in Mysore
Abhiras in Maharashtra
Ikshvakus in Andhra
Descent of Satavahanas
They claimed Brahamana descent.
Nashik Inscription states them to be Ekabamhana i.e. Peerless Brahamana and Khatiya dapa manamada i.e. who destroyed the pride of Kshatriyas.
Use of Matronyms
Satavahanas use name of their mother like Gautamiputra Satkarni, Vasishthiputra Pulumayi etc. This is significant, however, this doesn’t mean they followed the matriarchal system. Their succession was still Patrilineal.
They were followers of cross-cousin system of marriage, especially with father’s sister’s daughter.
Offering land grants was an important development of the Satavahana times. The beneficiaries of these grants were mostly Buddhists and Brahmins. The Naneghat inscription refers to tax exemptions given to the lands granted to Buddhist monks. These land donations created a group of people who did not cultivate but owned land.
2.3 Muvendors: Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas
From Sangam poetry, we come to know that Muvendar, ‘the three crowned kings’, the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas controlled major agrarian territories, trade routes and towns.
The area under their control included central and northern Tamil Nadu i.e. Kaveri delta also known as Cholamandalam.
Main Port : Puhar or Kaviripattinam
Sangam literature point towards fact that Kaviripattinam attracted merchants from various regions of the Indian Ocean and Roman Empire.
Sangam poems portray Karikalan as the greatest Chola of the Sangam age. Karikalan’s foremost military achievement was the defeat of the Cheras and the Pandyas, supported by as many as eleven Velir chieftains at Venni. He is credited with converting forest into habitable regions and developing agriculture by providing irrigation through the embankment of the Kaveri and building reservoirs.
Perunarkilli performed the Vedic sacrifice Rajasuyam or Rajasuya Yajna.
The area under their control included central and northern parts of Kerala and Kongu region of Tamil Nadu.
Main Port: Muziris
Emblem: Bow and Arrow
Sangam poems speak about eight Chera kings, their territory and fame.
Main port: Korkai
According to traditions, they patronized the Tamil Sangams and facilitated the compilation of the Sangam poems .
This article deals with the ‘Mauryan Empire’. This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you canclick here.
The Mauryan Empire is the first largest empires that were ever established on Indian soil.
Sources of Mauryan Empire
The sources include literary sources, epigraphical sources, foreign accounts and other materials obtained from archaeological excavations.
1 . Literary Sources
Arthashastra means ‘science of statecraft‘.
It was written by Kautilya / Chanakya in the 4th century BCE during the reigns of Chandragupta Maurya (although there is debate about the authorship).
It consists of 15 books dealing with Internal Administration, Inter-state relations and miscellaneous topics.
It gives us information like the administrative system, officers, the role of King etc.
However, it must be remembered that the Arthashastra was a prescriptive text, which laid down the guidelines for good administration.
1.2 Megasthenes Indica
Megasthenes was the Ambassador of Seleucus Nikator (Indo-Greek king) in the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
Megasthenes wrote the book INDICA. Although the original book has not survived & fragments are preserved in later Greek works (of Diodorus, Strabo, Arrian, Plutarch & Pliny ).
But we have to keep in mind that India is seen through a double filter – first through Megasthenes interpretation of what he saw or heard & second Graeco-Roman writers interpretations of Megasthenes accounts.
Puranas include a list of Mauryan Kings.
Eg: “Vishnu Purana’ throws light on the origin of Nandas and their overthrow by Chandragupta with the assistance of Kautilya.
1.4 Buddhist Texts
Ashoka was a celebrated figure in Buddhist texts because he was a patron of Buddhism.
He figures in later Buddhist texts like Divyavadana, Ashokavadhana, Mahavamsa and Deepavamsa.
But all the information from Buddhist texts can’t be accepted at face value because these books tend to exaggerate the accomplishments of Ashoka as he was their patron.
1.5 Jaina Texts
Jaina text named ‘Parisisthaparvan‘ by Hemachandra throws light on the early life of Chandragupta, the conquest of Magadha, his conversion to Jainism and famine during the later part of his reign.
1.6 Patanjali’s Mahabhashya
It was written in the last phase of the Maurya Period.
Mahabhashya is a major commentary on Panini’s Grammar by Patanjali.
Mudrarakshasa is a 5th-century historical drama written by Vishakhadatta.
It revolves around a clever plot of Chanakya against Rakshasa, minister of Nanda.
In the drama, Vishakhadatta referred to Chandragupta as ‘Vrishala’ and ‘Kulahina’ which means he was a person of humble origin.
But the historicity of this drama remains uncertain.
2 . Ashoka’s Inscriptions
There are 14 Major Rock Edicts, 7 Pillar Edicts and some Minor Rock Inscriptions.
– Delhi (originally located at Topara near Ambala) – Meerut – Kausambi – Lauriya Araraj – Lauriya Nandangarh – Rampurva – Lumbini / Rummindei – Amravati
Minor Rock and Minor Pillar
They were many but had an unusually large concentration in Deccan.
spread of the edicts essentially defines the extent of the vast empire over
which Ashoka ruled.
What do these inscriptions contain
Explanation of Dhamma.
King’s efforts to propagate it.
Own assessment of his success in doing so.
His allegiance to Buddha’s teachings & a close relationship with Sangha.
They also offer insights into Ashoka’s idea about his role as king, his administration and various social & economic aspects.
Content of Rock Edicts
1st Major Rock Edict
Prohibition of animal sacrifice.
2nd Major Rock Edict
Related to measures of social welfare.
3rd Major Rock Edict
Respecting one’s parents.
4th Major Rock Edict
Impact of Dhamma, Non-violence towards animals.
5th Major Rock Edict
Appointment of Dhamma-Mahamattas to spread Dhamma.
6th Major Rock Edict
Welfare measures of efficient administration.
7th Major Rock Edict
Peace, the balance of mind, faith and tolerance.
8th Major Rock Edict
Details of Bodhi tree.
9th Major Rock Edict
Ceremony of Dhamma.
10th Major Rock Edict
Ashoka’s desire to popularize Dhamma.
11th Major Rock Edict
Appraisal of Dhamma and Religious tolerance.
12th Major Rock Edict
Promoting religion of different faith.
13th Major Rock Edict
Kalinga’s destruction and mention of Greek rulers.
14th Major Rock Edict
Nature of all other rock edicts.
Language and script used in Inscriptions
were written in
Prakrit Language and Brahmi Script
Most of the scripts found in India.
Prakrit Language and Kharosthi Script
North-western regions (like Manshera and Shahbazgarhi).
Aramaic Language and Greek Language (bilingual)
Lampaka and Kandahar.
Aramaic Language and Aramaic Script
Laghman and Taxila.
Mystery of name Devampiya & Priyadarsi
James Princep decoded Brahmi script but the mystery remained regarding the king to which these inscriptions were referring. Name Ashoka doesn’t appear in the inscriptions. Ashoka was mentioned as Devampiya (beloved of Gods) & Priyadarsi (pleasant to behold).
This mystery was solved when a minor edict at Masaki (Karnataka) was found containing the personal name of Ashoka along with the prefix Devampiya and Priyadarsi.
3 . Archaeological evidences
The remains of the palaces of Chandragupta have been excavated at Kumrahar and Bulandibagh.
Number of caves of Mauryan
period have been found in the ranges of Barabar Hills and Nagarjuna.
Stupas have been found at
Banaras, Prayag, Kannauj etc. which were built during Mauryan period and
give us detailed information on the
religious condition during the Mauryan period.
Middle & late Northern Black Polished Ware
(NBPW) pottery belong
to Mauryan period .
Statues like that of a woman
at Besnagar and the elephant statue at Dhauli reveal an indigenous
technique in sculpture during the Mauryan times.
4. Numismatic Evidence
‘Punch marked coins’ were in circulation during the Mauryan period. They do not bear the name of any ruler nor carry any date. But they were issued by a central authority indicated by the uniformity of symbols used.
These punched marked coins have been found at Atranjikhera, Sanchi, Patna, Hastinapur, Taxila, Tripuri and Sarnath.
Controversy about the origin of Mauryas
According to various sources, the origin of Mauryas was as follows
Buddhist books like Digha Nikaya, Mahavamsa and Divyavadana
Belonged to the Kshatriya clan called Mauryas who ruled Pippalivana.
Chandragupta was the son of the daughter of the chief of a village of peacock tamers.
Refers Chandragupta to be belonging to a low caste.
(Commentator of Vishnu
Chandragupta was the eldest son of Nanda king Sarvarthasiddhi by Mura, daughter of a hunter.
Following facts point towards the fact that Mauryas were Vaishyas 1. Name ending ‘Gupta’ in Chandragupta’s name. 2. Asoka’s marriage to the daughter of a merchant of Vidisha.
Kings of Mauryan Empire
1 . Chandragupta Maurya (324 -297 BCE)
Chandragupta Maurya had ruled during the period of 324-297 BCE.
Chandragupta, with the help of Chanakya, defeated the last Nanda King and captured his empire. In this, Chandragupta took the advantage of the disturbances caused by the invasion of Alexander and his sudden death in 323 BCE in Babylon. With the help of Kautilya, Chandragupta raised a large army
First of all, Chandragupta launched campaigns against the Nandas.
Later, he shifted his concentration against Indo-Greek Governors / Kshatrapas ruling over north-western India.
In 305 BCE, he defeated the army of Seleucus Nikator who was ruling the eastern part of Alexander’s empire after his death. After the defeat of Seleucus, a treaty was signed between Chandragupta Maurya and Seleucus Nikator under which territories of Kandahar, Kabul, Herat and Baluchistan was given to Chandragupta. Chandragupta presented 500 elephants to Seleucus. Apart from this, a matrimonial alliance was also signed and Seleucus married his daughter to Chandragupta Maurya. An ambassador named Megasthenes was also sent to the court of Chandragupta Maurya.
Chandragupta expanded his empire westward as far as Gujarat corroborated by the Junahgarh / Girnar inscription.
Detailed information about the rule of Chandragupta Maurya is obtained from Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Kautilya was the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya and is considered the real architect of the Mauryan Empire.
Megasthenes came in the court of Chandragupta Maurya as an ambassador of the Seleucus Nikator (an Indo-Greek King).
The “Sandrakottus” or “Sandrakoptus”, mentioned in the Greek literature has been identified as Chandragupta Maurya.
According to Plutarch, he had an army of 600,000.
According to Jaina tradition, Chandragupta Maurya abdicated his throne and retired to Shravanabelagola in Karnataka with his teacher Bhadrabahu (Jain ascetic) where he committed Sallekhana.
More about Chanakya
Chanakya = renowned teacher at Taxila University.
He saw Chandragupta when he was passing by his village. He was attracted by his personality and trained him for 8 years for war against Greeks & overthrowing Dhanananda. Earlier, Dhanananda insulted Chanakya when he approached him for help against the Greeks.
Contemporary Jain and Buddhist texts hardly have mention Chanakya. But popular oral tradition ascribes the greatness of Chandragupta and his reign to the wisdom and genius of Chanakya.
Chanakya, also known as Kautilya and Vishnugupta, was a Brahmin and a sworn adversary of the Nandas. He is credited with having devised the strategy for overthrowing the Nandas and helping Chandragupta to become the emperor of Magadha.
He is celebrated as the author of the Arthashastra, a treatise on political strategy and governance.
His intrigues and brilliant strategy to subvert the intended invasion of Magadha is the theme of the play, Mudrarakshasa.
2 . Bindusara (297 – 273 BCE)
He was the son of Chandragupta Maurya and ascended the throne after his father.
He is also known as ‘Amitraghata’ in Indian texts or ‘Amitrochates’ in Greek texts.
According to Tibetan historian named Taranath and Jain scholar named Hemachandra, Chanakya continued as the minister of Bindusara after the death of Chandragupta Maurya as well.
During his reign, a revolt broke out in Taxila. Ashoka was sent to suppress the revolt and restore peace.
Greek Texts refer to his diplomatic relations with western kings.
Antiochus (king of Syria) sent an ambassador named Deimachus to his court.
Ptolemy II (ruler of Egypt) sent an ambassador named Dionysius.
Famous Story: Bindusara requested Antiochus (king of Syria) to buy & send some sweet wine, dried figs & sophist (philosopher specialised in debate & argumentation). He sends wine & dried figs & replied that Greek laws didn’t permit sophist to be bought.
He died in 273 BCE.
3. Ashoka (273 / 269 – 232 BCE)
There is a general agreement that Ashoka was not the crown prince (Yuvaraja). He sat on the throne after winning 4 years-long war of succession following Bindusara’s death.
According to various texts, Susima was the crown prince but Ashoka was supported by Ministers especially Radhagupta. Ashoka killed 99 brothers sparing only one named Tissa.
During Bindusara’s reign
He served as a Viceroy at Ujjain and also at Taxila.
He was sent to Taxila to quell a revolt.
In Ujjain, he married the daughter of the merchant of Vidisha. Two children i.e. Mahinda and Sanghamita were born out of this union. His stay at Ujjain is described in the Sri Lankan chronicles as his son Mahinda introduced Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Until hundred years ago in India, Ashoka was merely one of the many kings mentioned in the Mauryan dynastic list. In 1837, James Princep deciphered an inscription written in Brahmi but King was referred to as Devampiya Piyadassi (the beloved of the gods, pleasant to behold). We came to know about Ashoka in 1915, from Masaki Edict where King calls himself Devampiya Ashoka.
Kalinga War and its impact
Rock Edict XIII describes the horrors and miseries of the Kalinga war.
Although Ashoka’s predecessors brought Deccan and South under control Kalinga was still outside Mauryan control.
Kalinga had strategic importance as it controlled the routes to South India both by land and sea.
Kalinga war took place eight years after Ashoka’s consecration.
According to the inscription, one lakh people were slain in the war. These figures are likely to be exaggerated, nevertheless, war was very devastating. Although on the battlefield Asoka, was victorious, the inscription goes on to describe his remorse. The violence of the war completely changed the personality of Ashoka and he left the policy of aggression. The policy of conquest through the war was given up and replaced by a policy of conquest through Dharma/Dhamma i.e. Dhammavijaya.
Ashoka and Buddhism
Ashoka had close connection with Buddhism . Buddhist tradition considers him exemplary king & devout Upasaka .
His generosity as patron of Sangha is reflected in following things
He is credited with redistributing relics of Buddha & enshrining them in stupas in important towns .
84,000 Stupas were built by him .
He undertook pilgrimage to all major places connected with Buddha’s life .
Ashoka was ardent follower of Buddha’s teachings
He had position of influence
vis-a-vis Sangha .
In Bairat Edict , Ashoka greets Sangha & profess his deep faith in
Buddha , Dhamma & Sangha .
Schism Edict warns members of the order against
causing any division in the
Rummindei & Nigali Sagar
inscriptions point towards fact that
Ashoka visited Lumbini & announced tax concessions .
present Ashoka as vile & evil man until he came under influence of
Buddha’s dhamma & represent Ashoka’s following of Buddhism as sudden
transformative event .
Ashoka & 3rd Buddhist Council
Chronicles, Ashoka convened great
(3rd) Buddhist council in 250 BCE at Pataliputra presided by Moggaliputta Tissa in order to purge Sangha of certain
unacceptable practices .
An important outcome of this
Council was the decision to expand the reach of Buddhism to other parts of
the region and to send missions to convert people to the religion.
Buddhism thus became a proselytizing religion.
Missions by Ashoka were sent to following places
Sangamitta (son and daughter of Ashoka).It is believed that they took
a branch of the original bodhi tree to Sri Lanka.
(South Easy Asia)
of Dhamma were selected in a way that it should
be acceptable to majority of people of different communities .
It stressed on
Showing consideration towards
slaves and servants .
Obedience to elders .
Generosity towards needy Brahmanas and Sramanas.
Tolerance of different religious sects to create harmony.
Non-violence was to be practised by giving up war and
conquests and restraint on killing
Welfare measures, like planting of trees, digging of wells,
Attack on ceremonies and
sacrifices practised regularly on various occasions like birth,
marriage etc .
known as Dhamma
Mahamattah were instituted to implement & publicise various aspects of Dhamma.
Interpretations of Dhamma
Ashokan policy of Dhamma has
been issue of debate &
records credit him with the propagation of Buddhism in India and abroad.
But one cannot, however, lay the charge of being partisan against Ashoka.
There are two strong arguments
to prove that Ashoka, as an Emperor, did not favoured Buddhism
at expense of other faiths.
Creation of institution of Dhammamahamattas – Had it been to promote Buddhism ,
organisation of Sangha could be used to
of Rock Edicts depicts that Ashoka wanted to promote tolerance & duty of Dhammamahamattas included working for
the Brahmanas and the Sramans.
Some historians believe that
of sacrifices and the favour that he showed to the Buddhists led to a Brahmanical reaction. This in turn led
to the decline of the Mauryan Empire (HC RAYCHAUDARY) .
that the stopping
of wars and emphasis on non-violence crippled the military might of the Empire.
This led to the collapse of the empire, after the death of Ashoka.
It has been shown
by Romila Thapar that Ashoka’s
Dhamma, apart from being a superb document of his essential humaneness was
also an answer to the socio-political needs of the contemporary situation.
That it was not
anti-Brahmanical is proved by the fact that respect for the Brahmanas and
Sramans was an integral part of his Dhamma.
on non-violence did not blind him to the needs of the state. Thus,
addressing the forest tribes he warns
them that although he hates to use coercion he may be required to resort
to force if they continue to create trouble.
By the time Ashoka stopped war, the entire
Indian sub-continent was under his control. In deep
south he was on friendly terms with the Cholas and Pandyas. Sri Lanka was an
admiring ally. Thus, Ashoka’s no to war came at a time when his empire had
reached its natural boundaries.
4. Post Ashoka rulers
The subsequent history of the
Mauryas under his successors is very inadequately known. This is because a
state of disintegration seemed to have set in immediately after Ashoka’s
The tenth and the last of the
Mauryas was Brihadratha who was murdered by his general Pushyamitra
and who ascended the throne in 187 BCE. The empire founded by him is known
as Sunga Dynasty.
With Brihadratha’s death (187
BCE) this historic rule of the Mauryas came to an end within less than
half a century of Ashoka’s death and 137 years since its foundation by
Polity and Administration of Mauryan State
Mauryan state was
an Empire. Empire is a
political system which has vast
expanse of territories under it’s control, not all of which is culturally
homogeneous . They are different from the Kingdoms in following
Kingdoms draw maximum profit from existing
resources and do not make attempt
at restructuring access to resources.
Pressures on the Empire are many as
administrating a large empire with vast administrative machinery requires
huge financial resources . According to the Arthasastra, the salary of
chief minister, the purohita and the army commander was 48,000 panas, and
the soldiers received 500 panas. If we multiply this by the number of
infantry and cavalry, we get an idea of the enormous resources needed to
maintain the army and the administrative staff. Hence, Empires try to
restructure economy in order to increase the revenue base of the state .
Mauryan Empire tried to
increase their revenue base by
Extension of agriculture
Setting new cities
rarely succeed, Imperial Systems
attempt to erase variation in favour of homogeneity . Ashoka’s
dhamma was an attempt to bring homogeneity .
1 . Central Administration
Maurya Empire was a Monarchy
with king as Supreme authority .
He took all important
decisions concerning the empire.
He was assisted by a council
of ministers who acted as the king’s advisors.
King started to have paternal
attitude towards his
subjects. In the Dhauli inscription Asoka states , “All men are
my children and just as I desire for my children that they should obtain
welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, the same do I
desire for all men.”
By adoption of the title Devanampiya (beloved of the Gods) by Asoka; according to Romila
Thapar, “an attempt was made to emphasize the connection
between kingship and divine power.”
Council of Ministers
Arthashastra & Ashokan inscriptions mention Council of Minister. Megasthenes also mentioned
Arthashastra quotes that it
was impossible for King to rule single handedly (like Single Spoke cant
turn wheel) .
of Council of Minister was that of an advisory body. Final authority was vested with the King.
We do get references about 18 departments of the central government in the
2. Regional Administration
After its territorial
expansion , state established administrative control at the Provincial and
was headed by – Kumara (Royal
Prince) , who was
King’s representative in Province .
Eg Ashoka was Kumara of Ujjain & Taxila .
Kumara was assisted by Mahamatyas & a Council of
From Asokan edicts
– names of four
provincial capitals were
Tosali (in the east)
Ujjain (in the west)
Suvarnagiri (in the south)
Taxila (in the north)
Province was further divided
to Districts .
Officials listed at the level
of district during this period were
Pradeshta (overall incharge of
Rajuka : Survey of lands (rajuka derived from rajju,
King was in direct
touch with these officers. In the 4th Pillar Edict -Ashoka grants to the
authority” to carry out some of his instructions in relation to public
Local people were involved in
the Village Administration.
Village head was known as Gramani. He was assisted by Gram Sabha .
Apart from that, there were
intermediaries between district and village administration . These were Gopa
(administer 5-10 villages) and Sthanika (administers 800 villages) .
3. City Administration
City Administration according to Megasthenes
has described administration in Palibothra (Patliputra).
According to Megasthenes, there was 30
membered city council divided into six committees of 5 members each to administer city. These were
3rd Committee looked after registration of births and deaths.
Committee looked after inspection of weights and measures .
5th Committee looked after inspection of manufactured goods .
6th Committee collected taxes on goods sold at rate of
City Administration according to Arthashastra
No mention of such committees is found in the Arthashastra . But reference of equivalent Officers in Arthashastra were present . Eg :
Work of 4th committee was performed by Pautavadhyaksa .
Collection of taxes (Sixth Committee) was performed by Sulkadhyaksha .
According to Arthashastra
Head of the urban administration was Nagariaka.
He was assisted by two subordinate officials called Gopa and Sthanika.
Law enforcers in the city were called Rakshina .
Retreat of Seleucus, descriptive account of army administration in Arthashastra and the violent Kalinga war point towards a large and well organized military of Mauryas.
According to Pliny’s account , Chandragupta’s army consisted of 9,000 elephants, 30,000 cavalry and 6,00,000 infantry.
According to Megasthenes
There were 6 Branches of army – infantry, cavalry, elephants, chariots, transport & admiral of fleet .
Each branch was looked after by a committee of 5 members.
Kautilya has referred to Chaturangabala (i.e. infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants) as the main components of the army –each under a commander . Eg
Rathadhyaksha headed chariots .
Hastyadhyaksha headed elephant force.
5. Espionage System
Espionage was important part
of Mauryan Administration.
Main tasks of
the spies recruited involved:
eye over ministers
impressions regarding the feelings of citizens
secrets of foreign rulers, etc.
Arthashastradivided Spies (Gudhapurusha) into three type
6. Law & Justice
Arthasastra is full of codes listing punishments for various offences.
were various kinds of courts to settle disputes at various
Had judicial powers at village level .
Courts to decide civil cases .
Courts to decide criminal cases.
Courts which decided upon matters related to
individuals and the state.
for crimes range from fines to mutilation of limbs to death.
edicts mention that each 5th year king would despatch a gentle officer , neither
fierce nor harsh on a tour to ensure
that justice was being done
7. Revenue Administration
According to Arthashastra
, different resources from where
revenue flowed into the state treasury (Kosa) were rural areas, cities,
roads , pastures , plantations, forests and mines.
Tax on agricultural produce
constituted the most important source of revenue. Usually, the king was
entitled to one-sixth of the produce.
Kosa/ Treasury was
looked after by an official Sannidhata (Chief Accountant)
The state was also empowered
to impose taxes in case of emergency for increasing its earnings.
King had the
right of granting remission of land revenue as Ashoka reduced the Bhaga of the village
Lumbini to 1/8
and scrapped Bali altogether.
8. Public Works
State took keen interest
in public works. Account of
Megasthenes and Arthasastra corroborate
Irrigation : Tanks like Sudarshan Tadaga in
Medical facilities were available to both men
State also helped its citizens
during natural calamities like floods, famines, etc.
Laying down and
repair of roads
and opening of inns.
Society in Maurayan Empire
recommended 4 fold varna
system in society but how far that was followed is debatable.
Eg : Pushymitra Shunga
, a Brahmin who overthrew Mauryan Empire was Commander in Chief of Mauryas
Megasthenes divided Indian people into 7 strata i.e. Philosophers, Farmers, Herdsmen
& Hunter, Artisans & Traders, Soldiers, Overseers & King’s
Counsellors . It
seems Megasthenes’s own creation although it is possible to be
modelled on Herodotus’s classification of Egyptian society into similar 7 strata.
There was significant hardening
of Brahmanical position on untouchability .
Well of Chandalas could only be used by them &
none else .Chandalas were known as
(living at end) suggesting that they lived on margins of settlement .
There reference of king’s women bodyguard in Arthashastra .
Women were also employed
by the state as spies and performers.
Women of the upper
castes who had become widowed, deserted wives or ageing prostitutes could get work
from the state, such as spinning yarn .
Female ascetics were known, but were few and far between .
his Arthashastra argued that prostitutes
should also be taxed .
Surprisingly, there is no mention of either varna or jati in the Ashokan edicts, which may
suggest that they were not yet so prominent as social categories.
Ashoka’s emphatic plea for social harmony and repeated calls for equal respect towards brahmans and shramanas suggest that there were social tensions.
Economy during Mauryan Times
Mauryan State was producing substantial
agriculture surplus because of use of iron
in agriculture started and
start of paddy cultivation in North India
The Greeks noted with wonder
that two crops could be raised annually in India because of the fertility
of the soil.
Due to growth
in agriculture, cultivator assumed
important role. Megasthenes in his seven classes
mentions the farmers as the second class suggesting it was numerically
large class .
resources needed for Mauryan State could
only be got from land revenue. Hence, Arthasastra is careful in designing efficient
revenue system of the State.
– King’s share of produce . – Levied at the rate of 1/6th of the produce.
– Tax on the area of land cultivated .
– Water tax if irrigation facility of state is used . – 1/6 to 1/3 of produce
Lumbini(Rummindei) Edict states that when Ashoka visited
Lumbini i.e. birthplace of the Buddha, he exempted payment of Bali and reduced the payment of Bhaga to 1/8. Even Asoka’s great respect for the Buddha did not prompt
the emperor to exempt the village totally from the payment of taxes.
State took steps to provide Irrigation . Eg: Pushyagupta, governor of Chandragupta Maurya, built a dam in Girnar (Saurashtra) known as Sudarshana
tadaga (water tank).
2. Trade & Urban Economy
wanted to expand trade and commerce . For this, they established new state
founded walled towns and markets .
River transport was improved because forests
around the Valleys were cleared .
There was an officer called Agronomoi whose function was to maintain
Royal Road and
put distance markers after every 10 Stadia (10 Stadia = 0.5 Mile) .
State Control on Trade
The sale of
merchandise , in
theory, was strictly supervised. Goods were required to be stamped (to distinguish
between the old and the new) .
According to Megasthenes , tax was one-tenth of the sale proceeds and failure to pay this tax
was punishable with death.
Arthashastra recommends appointment of following officers
related to Trade
: Superintendent of Trade to fix price of goods
Superintendent of weights and measures
Navadhyaksha : Superintendent
of State boats
Superintendent of taxes , tolls and custom dues
According to Arthashastra, State enjoyed a monopoly in mines
and trade in mineral products.
Arthasastra provides for a superintendent of mines called Akara-dhyaksha – to look for
new mines & reopen old ones.
Causes of Decline of Mauryan Empire
Ashoka ruled for thirty-seven years and died in about 232 BCE . Subsequently, a political decline set in and the empire began to break up. The last of the Mauryas, Brihadratha, was assassinated during an inspection of the troops by the brahman Pushyamitra, the commander of the army. Pushyamitra founded the successor Shunga dynasty .
1 . Role of Ashoka
Debate 1: Revolt of the brahmans because of his pro-Buddhist policy ( by HP Shastri)
But this can be challenged because
His general policy was not an active proselytizing in favour of Buddhism at expense of Brahmanism.
Respect to both brahmans and shramanas was part of Ashoka’s Dhamma.
Buddhism’s more extensive spread happened in post Mauryan Period due to patrons in form of Mercantile Community and not due to Ashoka.
Debate 2 : Pacific policy of Asoka (by HC Raychaudhary)
It is argued that his obsession with non-violence led to the
emasculation of army, laying the
country open to invasion.
Edicts prove that this was not the case. His open threat to Tribals to
mend their ways otherwise they would be crushed & his advice to his
sons and grandsons on the use of violence prove that army was still
However, a long reign marked by only one military campaign in the
early years may have adversely affected the preparedness of the army,
and this may have been a factor responsible for the success of the Greek
More probable reasons are to be found elsewhere.
2. Pressure on Mauryan Economy (By DD KAUSAMBI)
was need for vast revenues to
Maintain large army
To finance the salaries of upper levels of bureaucracy
Cost of establishing settlements on
newly cleared land
This strained the treasury.Debasement of silver coins in later Mauryan period shows severe
pressure on economy and lack of
resource to maintain the structure .
3. Structure of Mauryan Administration (By Romila Thapar)
Mauryan bureaucracy was centralized, with the ruler – or king – as the key figure towards whom
loyalty was directed. A change of
king meant a re-alignment
of loyalty .
was arbitrary, with local governors choosing their officers hence, there was possibility of particular social groups
monopolizing administrative control in certain areas .
representative institutions to stabilize public opinion . They used espionage to stabilise public opinion
which must have created manifold tensions in the administration.
4. Invasions in North-West
After the demise of Ashoka, North-West saw invasion by Bactrian Greeks (because they were pushed by Parthians & Scythians) which destabilized the Empire .
Absence of nationalism, the idea of loyalty to the state rather than to a particular king, and the lack of popular representative institutions and absence of Chinese-type examination system in Maurya India are not very helpful in explaining the decline of the Maurya empire.
empires rely on mechanisms of integration and control over territory,
resources, and people. These
mechanisms include military force, administrative infrastructure, and ideology.
In the case of the Mauryas, given the vast contours of the empire, all three
must have been strained to their utmost. It was just a matter of time
before the distant provinces broke away from the centre.
This article deals with ‘Persian and Macedonian Attacks’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you canclick here.
In 6th Century, Persian empire extended upto north-western borders of
Greek historian Herodotus mentions that India (Indus Valley) was the 20th &
most prosperous satrapy of Persian empire & tribute from province was more
than tribute from all other provinces put together .
He was the founder of
He invaded Indian
borderland and captured the Gandhara region.
Darius (522 – 486 BCE)
I (522-486 BCE) made the real
advance in India. He invaded India and occupied the territories in the North-Western
Frontier Province, Sind and Punjab . These parts remained with the Persian
Empire till Alexander’s invasion of India.
Herodotus (historian) , Gandhara formed the 20th satrapy of the empire of
Darius paying a tribute of 360 talents of gold dust. It was the most fertile and populous
province of the Achaemenian Empire. Herodotus has also recorded that
Darius sent a naval expedition probably in 517 BCE to explore the Indus
Xerxes kept the control of
Indian possessions but due to
requisitioning of large number of troops for invasion of Greece, failed to
make any advances in India.
suffered defeat in Greece which led to the decline of Persian Empire . However, the Achaemenid rule over India continued up to 330 BCE . In that year Darius
III, the last of the Achaemenid ruler summoned Indian troops to fight
against Alexander . With the fall of the Persian power under the impact of
the invasion of Alexander the Great, the Persian hold over India was lost.
Impact of Persian Invasions on India
learnt the necessity
of a strong and united empire to repel the foreign invasions and
realized how essential it was to join hands together to meet the common
Encouragement to trade
The Persian rulers did much
to promote geographical exploration
and promote trade. The exploration of
the Indus and the Arabian Sea by Scylax opened a new water-route.
Settlement of Foreigners on Indian Soil
large number of foreigners, Greek, Persians
etc. settled down in the North-Western parts of India. With the
passage of time they were completely absorbed among the Indians.
Traces of the
Persian influence can be seen in the Mauryan sculptures and in the
Ashokan pillars. The polish of the
Mauryan pillars manifests the Persian influence. Ashoka also
followed the Iranian custom of preaching ideals by inscribing them on
the stone pillars. Similarly, the pillared remains of the
Palace in Pataliputra display a remarkable similarity to the pillared
hall in the Achaemenid capital.
The Aramaic form of writing which
the Persians introduced in the north-western India after their
conquest, gradually developed into the Kharoshti script. It was written
from right to left .
The Persian silver coins
were in circulation in India. This affected Indian coinage. The Persian
coins were known for their refined minting and elegant looks. The Indian rulers adopted
similar techniques to mint their coins on the Persian model.
Alexander Invasion (327-26 BCE)
In 327-26 BCE , North West Indian Subcontinent suffered the invasion
of Alexander .
Persian hold over Indian
provinces was nominal or non existent at that time . Alexander defeated
the armies of Darius III (Persian king) established various outposts in
Afghanistan & ventured into India . Greek historians make great deal
of Alexanders siege of Hill fort of
tradition says that even god Herakles was unable to take that .
326 BCE , he ventured into India after crossing Indus . Ambhi, the ruler of
Taxila, surrendered and accepted the suzerainty of Alexander. The most
famous of Alexander’s encounters was with Porus, ruler of the region
between Jhelum and Beas. The two armies met in the battle of Hydaspes
(Jhelum) in which Porus was imprisoned. Later, impressed by the Porus’s
dignity, Alexander restored his throne on the condition of accepting his
Alexander captured area till
Ravi but movement beyond Beas was prevented because of resistance of his own soldiers
who were tired by many years of wars & wanted to go back .
Alexander retreated back .
Areas lying west of Punjab were entrusted with Satraps (governors) & Macedonian garrisons were placed there.
Alexander died two
years later of a mysterious fever in Babylon.
One of the results of Alexander’s invasion was creation of Seleucid
principality in North-West & establishment of several Greek
settlements in that area including Boukephala, Nikaia & several
Effects of Alexander invasion
Trade routes opened up with
the West. As trade contact increased, many Greek settlements were
established in the northwest of India. Alexandria near Kabul, Boukephala
near Peshawar in Pakistan and Alexandria in Sindh were some of the
prominent Greek settlements.
Indirectly this invasion made
possible the establishment of Indo-Bactrian and Indo-Parthian states,
which at a later stage considerably influenced Indian architecture
(Gandhara school of sculpture), astronomy, coinage etc.
The invasion opened the eyes
of Indian politicians to the necessity of creating a unified empire
The date of the Invasion of
Alexander is the ‘first reliable date in early Indian
considerably helps in solving chronological difficulties. Greek historians
began to write about India .
This article deals with ‘Rise of Magadha’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you canclick here.
Among the 16 Mahajanapadas, Kasi was initially powerful. However, Kosala became dominant later. A power struggle broke out between Magadha, Kosala, Vrijji and Avanti. Eventually Magadha emerged as the dominant Mahajanapada and established the first Indian empire.
Rise of Magadha under the Haryanka Dynasty
1 . Bimbisara
Bimbisara is the first known
ruler of Magadha .
He was the first ruler to
introduce matrimonial alliances for strategic purposes . He married
of Madra king of Punjab
of Prasenjit of Kosala & got kashi
He had great
army (according to Jain texts).
Bimbisara was contemporary of both Mahavira & Buddha and met Buddha 7 years before enlightenment .
Buddha visited his capital after enlightenment as he promised earlier.
was Girivraja (identified as Rajgriha)
He was killed
by his son Ajatshatru .
2 . Ajatshatru
He killed Bimbisara & Mahakosala died in shock . Her brother,
King Prasenjit took back Kashi which was earlier given in dowry . This
to a military confrontation between Magadha and Kosala. The struggle lasted
until Prasenjit was overthrown .
fought and won the battle against the Lichchhavis. During this war, he sent his minister Vassakara to create dissension . He also used new
weapons named (1) Mahshilakantaka i.e. catapult to throw large stones and (2) Rathamusala (chariot with blades attached on
On Buddha’s demise
, Ajatshatru is said to have gone to Kusinagara to claim portion of his relics . He built many stupas around Rajgriha and
organised first buddhist council
death of Buddha
erected by him outside Sattapani caves in Rajgir
He was also killed by his own
son Udayen .
Pataliputra as city .
He was killed by his own son .
Later kings like Anurudha and Nagadaska also suffered PATRICIDE .
Hence, revolt broke and
Haryanka dynasty was thrown away by Shishunaga Dynasty
1 . Shishunaga
Shishunaga was the Governor of
Haryanka & did coup d’état.
He ruled from Girivraja &
seemed to have second capital at Vaishali
During his reign Pataliputra became capital of Magadha .
He organised & sponsored 2nd Buddhist
There was dispute
on 10 points
Storing salt in horn
Eating after mid day
Going to villages for alms
Eating sour milk after one’s
No consensus emerged and Buddhist sects began to appear for first time.
Last king of this dynasty was
Nandivardhana . Shaishunaga dynasty came to bitter end . King and his sons
were killed , making way for Nanda dynasty
Nanda Dynasty (345-321 AD)
Puranic , Buddhist
& Jaina tradition agree that there were 9 Nanda kings . Mahapadma Nanda was succeeded by his eight
sons, and they were together known as the navanandas or the nine Nandas.
build on the
foundations of Haryanka & Shishunaga dynasty
as the first great empire in North India .
Nandas were thought of low
origin with some
sources stating that dynasty’s
founder, Mahapadma Nanda, was the son of a Shudra
Mahapadma Nanda = Empire Builder
Mahapadma Nanda usurped the
throne by murdering the last of the Shishunaga kings.
Mahapadma Nanda has been described in Puranas as “the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas”. He defeated many other kingdoms, including Panchalas, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus , Surasenas etc.
He is known as Ekrat (Sole king).
He conquered Kalinga . Hathigumpha inscription of Kharvela (of Kalinga) also mentions the conquest of Kalinga by Nanda.
He also expanded his territory south of the Vindhya range, into the Deccan plateau .
Mahapadma Nanda is described as the first empire builder in the recorded history of India.
He inherited the large kingdom of Magadha built by Haryanka & Shishunaga dynasty .
But he wanted to extend it to yet more distant frontiers. For this he built up a vast army. According to Diodorus and Rufus (Roman historian) , his army consisted of 2 lakh infantry, 20 thousand cavalry, 2 thousand war chariots and 3,000 war elephants.
Such was the fear of Nanda army that when Alexander invaded India (Dhana Nanda was the ruler at that time ), he confined his campaign to the plains of Punjab as his forces were frightened by the prospect of facing Nanda army & mutinied at Hyphasis River (the modern Beas River) .
Reasons why Magadha emerged as strongest of all Mahajanapadas
In Republics of North-eastern India (Malla, Vajji) , there was no centralisation due to common ownership of land by the kshatriyas . On the other hand, in the Monarchies of upper Ganga , Vedic sacrifices led to wasteful consumption . Magadha located in the mid Ganga plains had no such limitations.
Magadha had the advantage of
Rich soil & history of rice cultivation .
Good rainfall, irrigated land and bandhs used as water reserves .
It was close to the mines and minerals of Singhbhum .
Forest of Rajmahal hills for procuring timber and elephants.
Old capital Rajgriha was surrounded by perimeter of 5 easily defendable hills .
New capital Pataliputra was protected due to location at Ganga & Son .
Both Uttarapatha & Dakshinapatha passed through Magadha leading to high volumes of trade . River Ganges which flowed through the heart of Magadha was the high route of trade .
Due to foreign invasions like
Achaemenians in 6th century B.C
Macedonians in 4th Century B.C.
infiltration of foreign races
Demands started to raise that there was need of central paramount power on the subcontinent to defend it from foreign invasions. It prepared the country to submit to Magadhan hegemony.
An unbroken chain of very able and extraordinary monarchs ascended the Magadhan throne like Shishunaga, Bimbisara, Ajatasatru, Mahapadma and Chandragupta . They were fortunate in having great ministers and diplomats like Vassakara, Kautilya and Radha Gupta .
This marks the end of our article on topic ‘Rise of Magadha.’
This article deals with ‘Mahajanapadas’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you canclick here.
this period , people began to settle on lands and started to
call certain areas to be their own
. Hence, Janapadas emerged .
Kings, Monks and monarchs emerged on the stage of history.
This was the age of intense
philosophical speculation . Buddhism, Jainism and many
other heterodox sects emerged as well.
Sources of Information
1 . Literary Sources
Brahmanas: Brahmanas (eg Shatapatha Brahmana) are the category of Vedic texts which deals with the methods of performing Vedic rituals.
Puranas:Puranas provide useful dynastic history .
Upanishads: Upanishads deal with the philosophical problems of the period and were composed 800 BCE onwards.
Buddhist Texts : Sutta Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka were composed during this period and they give us graphic descriptions of the contemporary society.
Ashtadhayayi: It is the book on Sanskrit grammar written by Panini in 5th-4th century BCE. Panini mapped out the grammatical rules as it existed in his time . His book became landmark in history of Sanskrit from Vedic Sanskrit to Classical Sanskrit . Ashtadhayayi is work of grammar but in order to illustrate the rules of grammar , Panini referred incidentally to many aspects of his time – places, people, customs, institutions, coins, weights & measures .
2. Archaeological sources
Iron objects such as hoes,
sickles, knives, hooks, nails, arrowheads, vessels and mirrors confirm the
widespread use of iron technology.
Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) is the characteristic pottery
of this period.
Textiles, beads,, ivory
objects, ceramics and glassware and artefacts of other metals are found.
A large number of terracotta
artefacts have also been found.
Sites belonging to this period include series of punch marked coins which
marked use of money in subcontinent .
Developments in the Gangetic Plains
Development of Agriculture
Agriculture improved during
this phase in the middle Gangetic plains creating the necessary surplus as
Wet rice cultivation began to
yield more produce of rice than other crops.
Iron technology also played a
Reasons for improvement of
Use of Iron
Iron axes could be used to clear
forests and iron
could facilitate agricultural operations.
Iron ploughshare increased
the productivity of land .
Practice of wet rice cultivation
This was especially useful
in the Middle Gangetic Valley. Wet
rice cultivation is substantially higher than those of wheat or millet in
traditional agriculture, leading to creation of large surplus .
Rise of Organised State
State helped in establishment of new
settlements by shifting surplus
population from overpopulated areas, providing cattle, seed, money
and irrigational facilities and providing remission of taxes and other
concessions to peasants in new establishments
Role of Buddhism
Buddhism was against sacrifices . It
insisted on the protection of cattle and preservation of cattle wealth for
agricultural purposes was encouraged .
Leisure time provided by
agricultural surplus and technology led to growth of crafts, which in turn
aided vibrant trade.
Agricultural surplus, the growth of crafts and trade, and the growing population led to the emergence of towns in the Gangetic plains. This is called the second urbanisation in Indian history after the first urbanisation evident in the Harappan Civilization.
The Later Vedic period
(1000–600 BCE) witnessed the transition from a tribal polity based on
lineage to a territorial state. The
loyalty of the people shifted from
Jana (tribe or clan) to Janapada (territory). The Janapadas fought
with one another for resources and political dominance. Some Janapadas
extended their territories and brought various Janas within their
jurisdiction. Such Janapadas grew into Mahajanapadas .
The king headed the
government aided by a centralised administration.
The king was also the
The king levied taxes out of
agricultural surplus and redistributed it and ensured maintenance of law
and order in a hierarchical society by force and coercion.
According to Puranic, Buddhist
and Jaina traditions, there were 16 Mahajanapadas. These were
The Mahajanapadas are further
classified as Gana-Sanghas and Monarchies based on the nature of their
Gana-Sanghas were oligarchies,
which were centred on clans.
These kingdoms did not come
under the single decision-making authority of a king but decisions were
taken on a collective basis by the heads of the different clans together.
have large standing armies but such organisation may be absent in
Gana-Sanghas . Their military
defeats from monarchical states was because of inability of military system to meet challenge of
Varna organisation did not
determine social status . Two broad categories were those who owned land and
those who laboured on it. Brahmans might not have enjoyed same prestige as there was
hardly any reference of gift to Brahmana .
– Vajji & Malla were Gana-Sanghas.
Side Topic : Were Gana-Sanghas Republic?
Translation of this
as Republic is misleading . These were oligarchies
where power was vested
in heads of leading Kshatriya families with no single
hereditary monarch .
Early studies on
ganas by nationalist
historians tended to glorify them by exaggerating their democratic
features . Comparisons were made with republics of Greece & Rome &
modern political institutions . Lot was to disprove the assertion of
western scholars that Indians had never known anything other than despotic
was marked by Corporate
element . Arthashastra
(a later text although) outlines special strategies that ‘to be conqueror’
could use to vanquish ganas (advise focussed on creating dissension among
their ranks) .
the king as head .
There was well developed taxation
system with standing armies .
Vedic orthodoxy was an
established practice in these kingdoms. The priestly class enjoyed a
preeminent status in the Mahajanapadas .
The Brahman priests provided the legitimacy to the king through
The kingship was hereditary
and the succession was in most cases based on the law of primogeniture.
The king was assisted by
councils called Parishad and Sabha. The councils were advisory in nature.
There was well developed
taxation system in Monarchical states. The revenue thus raised was used to
maintain elaborate administrative system and army.
here was emergence of the private property in land .
to produce surplus which led to rise of urban centres.
State also encouraged
expansion of agriculture .
led to the start of 2nd Urbanism .
Formation of states gave
impetus to Urban economy. Small aristocracy which extracted taxes started
to demand luxurious items giving push to artistic activities and trade .
Age of barter trade was almost over. Punch marked coins of copper
& silver came to use .
There was shift in geographical region to Upper &
Middle Gangetic Plains .
This period led to the
institutionalisation of inequality in the society and hardening of caste
Practice of untouchability started . Dharmasutras equated them with crows &
Contact even accidental was considered polluting .
Strict control over women’s sexuality was practiced as it was essential for the
patrilineal transmission of property and for maintenance and perpetuation
of endogamous caste structure.
Paribrajakas and Sramanas. These were people who had renounced families
travelled from place to place and held discussions on meaning of life, society and
This article deals with ‘Vedic Period’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you canclick here.
Decline of Harappan cities was
followed by another great civilisation and culture known as Vedic culture.
Vedic culture was the culture
of the speakers of Indo-Aryan language,
would have entered India from the
Their initial settlements were
in the valleys of the north-west and the plains of the Punjab. Later, they
moved into Indo-Gangetic plains.
As they were mainly a cattle keeping people, they were mainly in search of pastures.
The period of Vedic Culture
between 1500 B.C and 600 B.C may be divided into
Early Vedic Period or Rig
Vedic Period (1500 B.C -1000 B.C)
Later Vedic Period (1000B.C –
Debate around original home of Aryans
The original home of
the Aryans is a debatable question and different scholars have different view
European Theory : Supported by scholars like Sir William Jones , this theory was based on the similarity of all Indo-Aryan languages like Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, German etc. It states that Continent of Europe was the homeland of Aryans.
Central Asian Theory : Supported by scholars like Max Muller , it argues that Central Asia was the original homeland of Aryans based on the similarities in ‘Avesta’ (Iranian text) and the ‘Vedas’.
Artic Region Theory : Main proponent of this theory was Bal Gangadhar Tilak . According to this theory, the Aryans came from the Arctic region based on the astronomical calculations.
Indian Theory: This theory was supported by Dr. Sampurnanand and A.C. Das. They argued that Aryans were indigenous to the subcontinent. They argue that there are definite literary evidences in the Vedas that the Aryans regarded the Sapta Sindhu as their original home. Along with that, the sacrificial rituals of the Vedic Aryans having similarity with Harappan practices point towards their Indian origin.
most accepted view is that Aryans came to India from Central Asia from what is
known as Andronovo culture . This is corroborated by
similarities in the language of Rigveda and
oldest Iranian texts) along with other features like
Cremation , Fire Cult etc. Apart from that, Genetic Marker called M17 , found in 40% of Central Asian Steppe people is found in Speakers
of Indo Aryan Language .
Also, there wasn’t
any Aryan invasion but there was a
series of Indo-Aryan Immigrations and they came to the sub-continent as
Sources of Vedic Period
There are two type of sources i.e. Archaeological and Literary Sources.
1 . Archaeological Sources
Early Vedic culture is correlated with some Chalcolithic cultures of India especially Ochre Coloured Pottery Ware cultures.
On the other hand, Later Vedic culture is correlated with the Painted Grey Ware Culture of the Iron Age in North India.
But in contrast to Harappan Civilization, when the urban sites and farming cultures were present in a limited area, there was agricultural expansion in many parts of India accompanied with growth of craft production and population.
2 . Literary Evidences
Vedas (Vid = to know,
Vidya) are one of the earliest known texts composed in India. The language of
the Vedas is Vedic Sanskrit. There are
four Vedas i.e. Rig Veda, Yajur Veda,
Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. The Vedic texts were memorized and orally
transmitted by Brahmins from generation to generation. They were written down
in the later period, after the introduction of writing. The earliest known written manuscripts of the
Vedas date to the 10-11th century CE.
a . Rig Veda
It is world’s oldest
with extraordinary beauty & philosophical depth .
number of hymns are 1028 , arranged in 10 Books or
Mandalas. These hymns personify forces of nature and try to control and appease them
Books of Rig Veda are as follows
– They are the oldest books & known as Family Books . – These books are dated between 1500 and 1000 BCE and represent the Earlier Vedic Age. – Their composition is attributed to families of seer poets – Gritasamada, Vishvamitra , Vamadeva, Atri, Bhardwaj & Vasishtha .
These books seems to be of younger age i.e. 1000 BCE onwards.
b . Sama Veda
There are total of 1810 hymns .
Most of the hymns are borrowed from Rig Veda & arranged according to needs of musical notations .
These hymns were used for singing in connection with sacrifices .
c . Yajur Veda
Yajur Veda consists partly of hymns & partly of prose sentence (yajus) . Most of hymns of Yajur Veda
are taken from Rig Veda.
Yajur Veda deals with performance of rituals .
d . Atharva Veda
Atharva Veda is the
latest Veda among four.
of 781 hymns
which are divided into 20 books.
It contains hymns ,
and charms which reflect the popular beliefs .
Great importance of Atharva Veda lies in the fact that it is
source of knowledge of the real popular belief as yet uninfluenced by the
Note : Tradition of Vedic chanting is included in the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Veda has Brahmanas which are prose explanation of the Samhita portions in
terms of sacrificial rituals &
their outcomes.They reflect the spirit of an age in which
all intellectual activity was concentrated on the sacrifice .
Among most important Brahmanas
also known as ‘Forest Books.’
They were probably composed for the
old men who had retired into forest & were unable to perform elaborate
sacrifices requiring many articles . For them meditation became of superior merit .
books interpret sacrificial rituals in a symbolic & philosophical way.
There are total of 108 Upanishads but 14 are considered principle .
Upanishads literally means to sit near someone & is understood as referring to pupils sitting near their teachers . Knowledge that was to be imparted was not ordinary knowledge . It was all encompassing the key to liberation from cycle of birth, death & rebirth , something that could be taught to select deserving pupils .
In Upanishads , Indian society started to question the traditional Vedic religious order. The materialistic aspect of religion was discarded and Vedic religion was raised to realm of philosophical doctrine involving around the new concept of Atman (the indestructible soul) and ‘Brahman’.
Note : Satyameva Jayate is taken from Mundaka Upanishad.
Vedangas are also known as
the limbs of the Vedas.
They include work such as
with major rituals such as Ashvamedha and
lay down the norms for domestic rituals including rites of passage .
that lay down
social norms .
down principle of geometry that were used for constructing the sacrificial
These texts were
also composed over a very long period of time, between c. 800 BCE to c.
3 . Zend Avesta
Earliest part of Zend Avesta
is attributed to 1400 BCE .
Zend Avesta deals with fire
worship, horse sacrifice, cult of soma (or haoma in Avestan language) and
there is similarity in name of gods and social classes with Vedas.
Horse Centeredness in Vedic Culture
Horse is indispensable trait of Aryan culture .
In Vedic & Avestan Texts , personal names are horse centred . Various Iranian chiefs in Avesta & various Iranian tribes mentioned by Herodotus were named after Horse .
In Rig Veda, name ASVA comes in various forms 215 times . No other animal was named so frequently. Even Cow (Go) word occurs 176 times.
Rig Veda has prayers to god to grant King with ‘Swift Horses’ and ‘Strong Sons’.
Various sacrifices and ceremonies involved Horse. Eg : Ashvamedha & Rajasuya (chariot race) Yajnas.
Arguments to prove that Harappan & Rig Vedic people werent’ same
Mode of living was different
Harappan civilization was an
Rig Vedic people were
pastoral and rural in nature.
Archaeological evidences show
Harappan phase ended in 1900
Aryans arrived in India
around 1500 BCE .
Rig Vedic people were only
aware of barley but Harappans were aware of wheat , sesamum, peas etc.
Vedic Chiefs were horse
centred but Harappans weren’t aware of this animal.
Writing of both Civilisations
was different. Rig Vedic people spoke Vedic Sanskrit whereas Harappan
Script has not been deciphered yet.
Harappans practiced earth
burials whereas Vedic people cremated the dead ones.
Culture reflected through Rig Veda Samhita
divide Rig Vedic Corpus into two parts
Early Vedic Texts
: Family Books of Rig Vedic Samhita .
Later Vedic Texts
: Books 1,8,9 & 10 of Rig Vedic Samhita + Samhita of Sama, Yajur & Atharva
+ Brahmanas, Aranyakas & Upanishads .
reflected in two broad strata of early & later Vedic texts have come
to be known as early & later Vedic cultures .
Part 1: Early Rig Vedic Culture (1500 – 1000 B.C.)
During the Early
Vedic period, the Aryans were mostly confined to
the Indus region. They lived in the area of eastern Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Punjab and fringes of Western Uttar Pradesh. Rig Veda mentions some
of the rivers of Afghanistan like river Kubha along with Indus and it’s
tributaries. It also mentions Saraswati which has been identified as
Ghaggar-Hakra channel in Haryana and Rajasthan , but it’s Rig Vedic description
shows it to be Avestan river Harakhvati or present day Helmand in Afghanistan.
The political, social and cultural life of the Rig Vedic people can be traced from the hymns of the Rig Veda.
Rig Veda is pervaded with aura of wars .
Kinship was the
basis of the social structure of Rig Vedic society. People were identified
with specific clans and the clans formed the tribe or jana. People’s
primary loyalty was to the tribe. About 30 tribes/Janas have
been mentioned in the Rig Veda . Purus & Bharatas were two dominant tribes. They initially
seem to be allies but at some point fell apart .
Rig Vedas speak
about not only the Aryans, but also about the non-Aryan people, whom the
Aryans referred to as Dasas or Dasyus . Dasyus were dark
native people who had different cultural practices. When the Rig Vedic
people moved into India they came into conflict with these people .
to Indra to defeat not only Dasa but also Arya enemies indicate there were
conflicts between Aryans too .
associated with introducing Age
of Chariot , spoked wheel and were equipped with better weapons and horses. This gave
them edge over original inhabitants.
Word Rajan occurs many times . Since full fledged
monarchical state hadn’t emerged , it is best translated as chieftain . His
main task was to protect his people & lead them to victory in war.
Chieftain as Gopa /Gopati i.e. Lord of Cattles indicate protecting and
increasing herd was his major role .
Royal priest accompanied Rajan to Battle ,
recited prayers & supervised performance of rituals.
Rig Veda mentions Sabha
& Samitis . Such assemblies might have played important
role in redistribution of resources . Apart from that, it acted as check
on Rajan and Rajan
couldn’t do anything without the approval of these bodies.
Seems to be smaller & more elite gathering
Larger assembly presided by Rajan
1 . Absence of strict social hierarchy (Caste)
In family books, ‘Varna’ word
occurs but it means ‘Colour’ . Word Brahmana & Kshatriya is frequently used
in family books but word Varna in context of fourfold divided society is never used . Word Vaishya
& Shudra is altogether absent .
(Purushasukta Hymn of Book 10 of Rig Veda was the first to speak
about 4 fold division)
strict social hierarchy & existence
of social mobility is suggested in book 3 by hymn – ‘O Indra , fond of Soma , would you
make me the protector of people or would you make me a king , would you
make me a sage who drink soma , would you impart me endless wealth?’
2. Position of Women
19th century socio-religious
reformers & 20th century nationalist historians represented Vedic age as golden age for women . They pointed out that
people worshipped goddesses .
Rig Veda contains
hymns composed by women .
Presence of women sages .
Women took part in rituals along with their husbands .
Women took part in chariot races .
Women attended Sabha & various social gatherings .
Rig Veda attaches
importance to institution of marriage . Rituals indicate post puberty marriage &
there are references of women choosing their husbands . Women could
remarry if his husband disappeared
was present as Maruts
are represented as living
with Rodasi and two Asvin brothers lived with daughter of sun god.
But other scholars
challenge it on following account
Great part of
discussion is about elite women ignoring less privileged ones.
Veda mentions goddesses but none of them is as important as major gods.
Social implication of worship of female deities is
complex . It shows ability of society to visualise
divinity in women form but it doesn’t automatically mean that
real women enjoyed power or privilege .
Proportion of hymns
attributed to women are minuscule 12-15 out of over 1000 .
in Vedic rituals & sacrifices but as wives on behalf of his husband.
Vedic society was patrilineal &’patriarchal – women enjoyed little
control over material resources .
Rig Vedic prayers are for son & not
daughter & absence of sons is deplored .
3. Nature of Household
Household was called Dam which was under joint control of
husband and wife, called dampati (dual).
Both sons and daughters seem
to have been welcome in the dam.
4. Joint Family
There is single word to denote nephew, grandson , cousin etc. This imply that differentiation in family relationships leading to the setting up separate households had not occurred and family was a large joint unit.
Wheat and barley, milk and its products like curd and ghee, vegetables and fruits were the chief articles of food.
However, the eating of cow’s meat was prohibited since it was a sacred animal and was considered aghnya (not to be killed).
Drink known as SOMA consisted of the juice of Soma plant, mixed with milk, sour milk or yava (cereal) was their favourite . SURA seems to be intoxicating drink made by fermenting grain.
6. Leisure time
There are references to singing , dancing & musical instruments eg vina , vana &’drums. Dramas , Chariot racing & gambling with dice were source of entertainment .
Prayers in Rigveda suggest that Early Vedic Economy was predominantly , if not exclusively , Pastoral in nature. It is corroborated by the references to cattle as wealth and typical kind of animosity shown towards urbanity as Indra known as Purandara (breaker of Forts / Cities) .
was no doubt important but Agriculture cant be altogether ignored .
Archaeological evidence points
to the development of agriculture among the Rig Vedic people.
The ploughshare is
mentioned in the Rig Vedas. There are hymns in Rig
Veda referring to levelling of fields for cultivation, desire for fertile
fields & producing rich
harvests . There are prayers to Indra to
grant or enrich fields . Indra is also referred to as protector of
crops and winner of fertile lands .
They cultivated barley (yava).
Rig Veda mentions artisans such as carpenters, chariot-makers, weavers and leather-workers.
Weaving of clothes of cotton and wool is also mentioned.
Copper metallurgy was one of the important developments of this period.
Word Ayas occur in many contexts like Indira’s thunderbolt of Ayas , Agni compared to edge of Ayas etc. . But it is not clear which metal these objects were made of . Some scholars interpreted Ayas as Iron artefacts which is not true as Early Rig Vedic Age was chalcolithic in nature . Ayas could have meant copper, bronze or may be general term for metals .
No notion of private property
Notion of private property ownership didn’t exist . Clan as whole enjoyed rights over major resources like land & herds .
Although trading activities
were limited but traders referred to as ‘Panis’ were present during the
Early Vedic period.
Coinage system was not
developed and most of the trade was carried in Barter.
Bullock carts, horses and
horse-drawn chariots were used for transport.
There are references to the
sea (samudra) and boats (nau) indicating riverine transportation as well.
No formal taxation system
There was no
regular revenue system although Rig Veda mentions
the voluntarygifts (bali) received by Rajan from
the members of clan .
War booty was major source of wealth .
Rig Vedic Aryans
worshiped the natural forces like earth, fire, wind, rain and thunder i.e.
Veda reflects Naturalistic
Polytheism. They personified these natural forces into many gods and
worshipped them. The important Rig Vedic gods were Indra (thunder) ,Agni
(Fire), Prithvi (Earth), Vayu (Wind) and Varuna (Rain) .
Religion followed by the Early Rig
Vedic people was ‘sacrificial’
in nature. Animal
sacrifice is way to kill older animals with no economic utility and lessen
the burden on their owner.
Indra was the most
important and most
frequently invoked god in Rig Veda .250 Rig Vedic hymns
are attributed to him. He was vigorous & strong , great
warrior . His weapon was thunderbolt
he led Aryas to victory in Battles . He loved to drink Soma . The most
important myth associated with him
was his win over serpent demon
Vritra who was hiding water. Indra finally killed him with his Thunderbolt
& released the water. According
to (historian) DD Kosambi,
these stories originated from the clashes between Aryan Tribes whose chief
was envisaged as Indra and Non-Vedic original settlers and breaking of
agricultural dams built by these settlers.
importance was Agni
who was regarded as an intermediary between the gods and people.
Varuna who personified water
was supposed to be the upholder of the natural order.
There were female gods like
Aditi and Ushas as well.
There were no temples and no
idol worship during the early Vedic period.
Part 2 : Later Vedic Period (1000 – 600 BC)
The Later Vedic culture is
dated to the period between 1000 BCE
and 700–600 BCE. The Satapatha Brahmana refers to the
expansion of Aryans to the eastern Gangetic plains
The Painted Grey Ware Culture of the
Iron Age is associated with the Later Vedic culture.
The Aryan speakers expanded till Ganga-Yamuna doab in the Later Vedic period.
The Bharatas and
Purus, the two major tribes, combined and thus formed the Kuru people.
Soon the Kurus occupied Delhi and the upper reaches of the doab,
the area called Kurukshetra or the land of the Kurus. Gradually they
coalesced with a people called the Panchalas who occupied the central part
of the doab. The authority of the Kuru–Panchalas people spread over Delhi
,and the upper and central parts of the doab. They set up their capital at
Hastinapur situated in Meerut district. The history of the Kuru tribe is
important for the battle of Bharata, which is the principal theme of the
great epic called the Mahabharata. This war is supposed to have been
fought around 950 BC between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Since both of
them belonged to the Kuru clan, as a result of war virtually the whole of
the Kuru clan was wiped out.
Later Vedic people led a
settled life leading to formation of territorial units.
Larger kingdoms were formed
during the later Vedic period. Many Jana or tribes were amalgamated to
The wars were no longer fought
for cows, but for territories.
Hereditary Kingship was emerging &
Shatapatha Brahmanas refer to kingdom of 10 generations .
absence of firmly established principles of heredity & primogeniture, rituals became important for ruler to assert his authority. Ceremonial sacrifices like Rajasuya
(consecration ceremony), Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) and Vajpeya (chariot
race) were performed on
lavish scale and were thought to give Super-Human status to chiefs ,
legitimising their rules.
Taxes were not yet formally collected although Bali was
possibly acquiring an obligatory character.
The king received voluntary or
compulsory contribution called Bali from the people .
Although well developed
bureaucracy was still absent but number of officials increased than Early
Vedic Culture. Some of the
Charioteer or Suta :
Companion of Raja in his exploits & who narrate tales of valour on a
number of occasions.
Senani : Leader of the Army
Sangrahitr : Associated with
At the lower level, the
administration was possibly run by village chief called Gramini.
Even in later Vedic times the
king did not have a standing army. Tribal units were mustered in times of
Reduced powers of Sabha and Samiti
Sabha & Samiti continued
to exist but with increase in power of king , power of these assemblies
Membership was also
reduced to chiefs and rich nobles, and women were no longer permitted to
sit in the Sabha .
Hymn in Book 10 of Rig Veda for the first time refers to 4 social
groups – Brahmana , Rajanya (or Kshatriya) , Vaishya & Shudra . Varnas are described as being created at same
time as that of earth , sky , sun & moon indicated this was considered a part of natural & eternal order of world
The two higher classes –
Brahmana and Kshatriya enjoyed privileges that were denied to the Vaisya
The concept of dvija (twice-born) developed and the upanayana (sacred thread) was limited
to the upper sections of the society. This ceremony marked the initiation
for education. The fourth varna was denied this privilege and the Gayatri
mantra could not be recited by the Sudras. Women were also denied
upanayana and Gayatri mantra
Although there is no
indication of practice of untouchability but in later Vedic
texts groups like Chandalas were
looked upon with contempt by elites . In Chandogaya Upanishad , they are described as
victims to be offered in symbolic Purushamedha (human sacrifices) & dedicated to
deity Vayu (wind) suggesting they lived in open air .
Position of woman
Position of woman started to
deteriorate compared to the Early Vedic Period corroborated by following
Women lost their political
rights of attending assemblies.
Child marriages became
According to Aitreya
Brahmana, a daughter has been described as a source of misery.
Polygyny became frequent.
Society became strictly
patrilineal and patriarchal .
Atharva Veda contains
charms for changing a female foetus into a male one .
But at some places, Women were
praised & exalted in in
later Vedic texts . For instance
Shatapatha Brahmana states
that wife is half the other half
of her husband & completed him .
few women like Gargi
participated in the philosophical debate with Upanishadic
Vishpala was a women
warrior who lost a leg in battle
but such references were far apart & minuscule .
Nature of Household
Household was called Griha which was under the control
of husband called Grihapati.
Griha had three components: a patni, cattle
Apupa was the cake mixed with ghee .
Milk products were
Meat was eaten on
special occasion like honouring guests .
There are references of
intoxicants like Sura .
Soma plant become difficult to
obtain . Hence, substitutes were allowed .
Use of Iron
Earliest references to iron
found are during Later Vedic Period
Term Krishna Ayas in Yajur Veda &
Atharva Veda refers to Iron.
Taittariya Samhita mentions ploughs driven by 6 or even 12 oxen (made of iron) .
Iron was used extensively in
this period and this enabled the people to clear forests and to bring more
land under cultivation. Iron is
believed to have played an important role in the conversion of the forests
of the Ganga Valley into agricultural lands.
Agriculture became the chief
occupation as iron helped to clear the forests.
Improved types of implements
were used for cultivation.
Satapatha Brahmana mentions
rituals related to ploughing. The
god Balarama is depicted with a plough, which suggests the importance of
Besides barley , rice and wheat were grown.
Land was owned and occupied by extended families .
Arts and crafts proliferated
during the Later Vedic age and craft specialization took deep roots.
Metal work like iron and
copper became important. Weaving
was undertaken by women. Leatherwork, pottery and carpentry were well
Bow makers, rope makers, arrow
makers, hide dressers, stone breakers, physicians, goldsmiths and
astrologers are some of the specialized professional groups mentioned in
Vaisyas carried on trade
and commerce. They organized themselves into guilds known as ganas.
No evidence of coins has been found and therefore barter must have been the
medium of exchange. The introduction of coins took place after about 600
Gods of the Early Vedic period
like Indra and Agni lost their importance. Prajapati (the creator), Vishnu
(the protector) and Rudra (the destroyer) became prominent during the
Later Vedic period.
very elaborate. The importance of prayers declined and that of
sacrifices increased. It was
believed that sacrifices could solve many problems. The correct performance of sacrifices
was stressed. Stress was laid on paying dakshina to the Brahmins
performing the sacrifices.
The rise of Buddhism and
Jainism and upanishadic philosophy within hinduism was the direct result
of reaction to these elaborate sacrifices. Upanishads stress the
importance of realising the atman or inner self and heterodox faiths such
as Buddhism and Jainism emphasized
on correct human behaviour and discipline.
This article deals with ‘Harappan Civilisation’ . This is part of our series on ‘Ancient History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you canclick here.
Indus Valley Civilisation
represents the first phase of urbanisation in India contemporaneous with
the civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt
This civilisation did not
appear all of a sudden. It developed gradually on the foundations provided by Neolithic
villages in the area. For example,
Neolithic villages in this region go back to about 7000 BCE at the
Neolithic site of Mehrgarh.
It is known by various names
Indus Valley Civilization :
It was mainly spread in valley of Indus and it’s tributaries.
Harappan Civilization : As Harappa was the first site of this
civilisation to be discovered.
Area of spread
Civilization was spread over
nearly 1.5 million sq. km area.
Its core area was in the regions of Pakistan, Punjab, Haryana,
Rajasthan and Gujarat.
It is spread between
Pakistan-Iran border) in the west
Manda (Jammu and Kashmir) in
Alamgirpur (Uttar Pradesh,
India) in the east
Daimabad (Maharashtra, India)
in the south
Phases of Harappan Civilisation
civilisation is dated between c. 2600 and 1900 BC. There were earlier and later
cultures, often called Early Harappan and Late Harappan. The Harappan
civilisation is sometimes called the Mature Harappan culture to distinguish it
from these cultures.
3000 to 2600 BCE
It is known as ‘Period of Regionalisation‘. It was proto-urban formative phase . Settlements had fortifications and craft specialisation started to develop. But large cities were absent.
2600 to 1900 BCE
It is known as ‘Period of Integration ‘. It was full fledged Urban phase. Settlements were large and high degree of craft specialisation was reached.
1900 to 1700 BCE
It is known as ‘Period of Localisation‘. It was post-urban phase . Settlements were small , more in number but rural in character. Single Harappan Culture fragmented to 3local phases 1. West Punjab Phase (Cemetery- H Culture) 2. Jhukar Phase Rangpur Phase 3. Ganga Yamuna Doab Phase
Note : The urban
phase was prevalent in the mature Harappan period and began to decline
1 . Planned Towns
Harappan Cities were well planned .
There was Grid Pattern of streets cutting each other at right angles . The streets were wide enough for too and fro movement of traffic.
City was divided into two distinct parts i.e.
Citadel : Small , higher & fortified (walled) which housed importantbuildings like Granaries, Great Bath etc.
Lower Town : Bigger , lower and separately walled housing common public .
Since the city was walled, it meant that once the wall was built, it couldn’t be expanded. It corroborates the fact that city was first planned and then built according to the plan.
2 . Fortified Towns
Harappan cities were fortified .
These fortifications could have served following purposes :-
Protection from attacks .
Exclude outsiders .
Helps to control activities inside the fortification.
If traders bring goods from places faraway they can demand share for allowing access to potential buyers inside
3 . Impressive drainage system
It was the most complete ancient drainage system seen in any ancient civilization. Perhaps no other Bronze civilization paid such emphasis on health and cleanliness as Harappans.
Every house was connected to street drains.
Main channels were made of bricks set in mortar and covered with loose bricks that could be removed for cleaning. House drains first emptied into a sump or cesspit into which solid matter settled while waste water flowed out into the street drains.
Drainage systems were not unique to the larger cities, but were found in smaller settlements as well.
4 . Extensive use of standardised baked bricks
Size of bricks was uniform (ratio = 4:2:1).
Standardised size of bricks indicate that brick making was organised on large scale.
Various brick laying techniques were used including ENGLISH BOND STYLE (for maximum strength).
Note : In contemporary Egyptian Culture, dried bricks were used . Although, baked bricks were used in Mesopotamia but they were used much widely in Harappan culture.
5 . Houses
People lived in houses of
different sizes showing that stratification was present in the society.
Staircases were present in
some houses which might have led to roof .
Although most of houses were
single storied . But two and three storied houses were also present.
were made of high packed earth.
houses attached to large ones might have been quarters of service
Toilets & Bathrooms : Houses had separate bathing & toilet areas
. Floor of these was made of tightly fitted bricks .
Houses were without much
showing utilitarian outlook of Harappan people .
Crafts and Techniques
Harappans mass – produced
Some were quintessentially Indus, i.e. they are
neither found prior to the advent of civilization nor after its collapse.
Eg : Indus seals .
1 . Harappan Pottery
Harappan Pottery reflects efficient mass production .
of typical Harappan Pottery were
Harappan pottery was well
Harappan Pottery was made
with potter’s wheel.
Pottery has bright
red slip decorated with
black designs .
Shapes – There was great variety of shapes like pots, large Jars (to store grains or water),
flattish dishes (used as plates), perforated jars (use not clear) etc.
Decorative designs on pottery include – fish scales, pipal leaves , horned deity , intersecting circles,
zig-zag lines etc.
2 . Copper Objects
Harappan civilisation was a ‘Bronze Age civilisation’ and Harappans knew how to make copper and bronze tools. They did not have the knowledge of iron.
Harappans used pure copper as well as copper alloyed with Arsenic , Tin or Nickel .
Artefacts include vessels , spears, knives, short swords, mirrors , rings & bangles etc.
With time %age of bronze increases.
Side Topic : Dancing Girl
Most of metal objects found are Utilitarian .
Most important Non-Utilitarian Copper Object excavated from Harappan Civilization is Dancing Girl found at Mohenjodaro .
It was made using LOST WAX TECHNIQUE .
Features of Dancing Girl
She is standing in Tribhanga posture .
She is naked .
She is wearing a necklace, 24-25 bangles in left arm & just 4 on right arm .
John Marshall called it DANCING GIRL (thought her to be equivalent of Nautch Girl dancing on music) . Although name struck , but she might not have been dancing at all .
3 . Seals
Use of seals was to facilitate long distance communication. They might have been used
For stamping on bag’s rope knot .
Insignia / images on seal
conveyed the identity of sender.
Seals were square or rectangular .
Average size of square seal
was 2.54 cm .
Material used –
Carvings are in intaglio
ie sunken engravings with impression appearing in
Motifs on seals include elephant,
tiger, humped bull, rhinoceros
, one horned unicorn etc.
Most seals have short inscription. The longest inscription has about
twenty six signs.
4 . Beads and Bangle making
This craft was known in
earlier cultures too but Harappans
used new materials and better techniques
Material used included
Steatite, Carnelian , Lapis Lazuli ,etc.
Harappan long barrel cylinder carnelian beads were so beautiful that
they are found in royal burials of
Main centres of Bead making
were Chanhudaro & Lothal . Bead making tradition in Gujarat
today give us
clue on how Harappan craftsmen might have made beads
Bangles were often
made from conch shell .
Nageshwar (near Jamnagar) and Balakot ,
situated near the coast, were exclusively devoted to Bangle making from shell .
Dancing girl found
at Mohenjo-Daro is shown wearing bangles in large numbers .
Water Management System
Harappan sewage & drainage was far more advanced
than any other found in contemporary
urban sites in the Middle East.
Every house was connected to street drains.
Main channels was made of bricks set in mortar and was
covered with loose bricks that could be removed for cleaning.
House drains emptied into
cesspit where solid matter settled and waste water flowed into street
Water Management in various cities
– Almost all houses had private wells (700 wells found in city). – It also had the Great Bath .
It had port with a dockyard .
– System of water management was architectural marvel . – Two seasonal streams – Manhar and Mansar – was dammed and diverted to the large reservoirs within the city walls . It had 16 water reservoirs covering as much as 36 % of the walled area.
– Canal for irrigation brought water from nearby Kokcha river .
producing enough food to sustain urban population which was engaged in
activities other than agriculture. Their subsistence base was wide and
diverse as it was situated on alluvial plains , mountains , plateaus & sea coasts .
Today the rainfall
in Sindh is about 15 cm, but in the fourth century BCE , one of the
historians of Alexander informs us, that Sindh was a fertile part of
India. In earlier times, the Indus region had more natural vegetation
which contributed to rainfall. Along with that , annual inundation of
Indus made the region very fertile. Just as the Nile created Egypt and
supported its people, so too the Indus created Sindh and fed its people
Crops : Harappans cultivated
diverse crops such as
Note : although rice husk has
been found at sites like Rangpur but it wasn’t the main crop of Harappan
Cotton : Cotton was cultivated
in Harappan civilisation . Following evidences prove this fact
Mesopotamian texts state that
cotton was important import from Meluha .
Ploughing : Harappans used ploughs. They ploughed
the land and then sowed the seeds increasing the agricultural output. Ploughed fields have been found at Kalibangan. Terracotta models of the plough have
been found at at Banawali (Haryana).
Irrigation : Most Harappan sites
are located in semi-arid lands, where irrigation
was probably required for agriculture. Harappans built embankments and dams
for irrigation. For example :-
canals have been found at Shortughai .
from wells was also used for irrigation.
reservoirs found in Dholavira
Animals were domesticated by
the Harappans for meat, milk and draught purposes.
They domesticated sheep, goat, buffalo , fowl etc.
They also ate fish
. In states like Gujarat, Molluscs were widely consumed. Marine catfish bones have been
found at Harappa showing coastal community traded in dried fish .
show region also housed humped bulls, rhinoceros, ibexes , boar, deer and
Issue of Horse is controversial
Horse remains have been reported
, Lothal, Surkotda & Kalibangan . But analysis of bones is questioned by
other scholars .
In any case, the Harappan
culture was not horse-centered. Representation of horse has not been
found on seals or pottery .
For UPSC exam, we can say
that horse was not known to them.
Trade and Exchange
Harappans did not use metal
money, and in all probability carried exchanges through a barter system.
Two types of trade was going
Mesopotamia & Persian Gulf
different Harappan sites and various other cultures of India .
Evidences showing External
Trade are as follows
seals and materials found in the
Sumerian and Mesopotamian sites as well as in Oman, Bahrain and Iran.
Mesopotamian inscriptions mention the trade between
Mesopotamia and Harappans. The mention of “Meluha” in the
Mesopotamian inscriptions refers
to the Indus region.
Important exports were
Carnelian beads – found even in Mesopotamian Royal Graves
Textile – Mesopotamian Records of King Sargon mention this
Ivory & Ivory objects
Lapis Lazuli,Gold, Silver , copper, tortoiseshell , chicken like bird
Import imports were
Fish, grain , wool, woollen garments & silver from Mesopotamia
Harappans also interacted with
various regions of India and acquired raw materials and processed them.
These regions were as follows
Tosam area of
Kolar mines of
semi precious stones except Lapis Lazuli
Weights and Measures
Harappans had developed proper weights and measures. Since they were involved in commercial
transactions, they needed standard measures.
made of chert, chalcedony, black stone etc. have been found at excavated
Weights exhibit a binary
system. The ratio
of weight is doubled as 1:2:4:8:16:32.
They also used a
measuring scale in which one inch was around 1.75 cm. Sticks inscribed
with measure marks have been found, and one of these is made of bronze.
Faiths and Belief System
Harappan people had wide faiths and belief systems.
1 . Nature worship
Harappan seals, sealings, amulets & copper tablets depict number of trees , plants & animals . Some might have cultic significance as well and these include
Pipal (Ficus Religosa)
Bull which is symbol of male virility . Seal from Chanhu-daro depict a bull bison with erect penis, fecundating a supine human figure.
One horned animal probably Unicorn.
Composite animals like Tiger-Human. Conception of composite gods like Narsimha can be traced back to this .
2 . Mother Goddess
Worship of female goddesses is historically
associated with fertility .
Goddess is slim female with fan shaped headdress & wearing short
skirt . She is heavily ornamented with necklaces and earrings.
3 . Proto Shiva
also worshipped male god
represented on seal discovered at
Mohenjodaro known as Pashupati Seal. The god is surrounded by an elephant, a tiger, a
rhinoceros, and below his throne there is a buffalo, and at his feet two
Note : It resembles with
Shiva who is Mahayogi (the great
yogi) & Pashupati( lord of
4 . Priest King
Found at Mohenjo Daro known as Priest king.
He was called Priest King because archaeologists were familiar
history and its “priest-kings” .
5 . Fire Alters
Citadel at Kalibangan consists of fire alters where offerings were made into fire.
Fire Alters have also been reported at Banawali, Lothal, Amri & Rakhigarhi .
Fire ritual was central to Vedic religion . These evidences indicate that Aryans might have adopted this from Harappans when they came & settled down in these areas .
6 . The Great Bath
The Great Bath found at
Mohenjodaro might have religious
significance as well.
The Great Bath was a large
rectangular tank with two staircases
on the north and south leading into the tank. There were rooms on
three sides, in one of which was a large well. Water from the tank flowed
into Great Bath . Across a lane to
the north lay a smaller building with eight bathrooms. The uniqueness of
the structure and fact that it was found on citadel led scholars to suggest that it was
meant for some kind of a special ritual bath.
Harappans buried the dead.
The Harappan burials have
grave goods in the form of pottery, ornaments, jewellery, copper mirrors
and beads. This suggest their belief in an afterlife.
Compared with other
civilisations, it can be said that on the whole, it appears that the
Harappans did not believe in burying precious things with the dead.
Note : Although Harappans
buried their dead but Harappan civilisation hasn’t yielded a monument for
the dead which could equal Pyramids
of Egypt or Royal Cemetery of Ur .
Nature of Writing
mystery about the Harappans is which language(s) they spoke.
Harappan script consists of 400-450 basic
Harappan script was pictographic in nature (i.e.
picture used to represent a word).
written from right to left corroborated by the fact that some seals show a wider
spacing on the right and cramping on the left.
Although larger inscriptions
were rare. In large inscriptions , they followed Boustrophedon Style (i.e. first line in
right to left , then next line in left to right)
scholars argue that Harappan script and language belonged toDravidian family
. Father Heras was strong advocate of this view . He
argued that Brahui
, language still spoken in this
region , belongs to Dravidian family .
historians believe that it
belonged to Indo-Aryan languages
Yet others believe that it
belonged to the Sumerian language.
Harappan script has not been
deciphered yet . Mortimer
Wheeler writes the conditions requisite for the interpretation of the
script are (1) bilingual inscriptions with known language and (2) long
inscription with significant recurrent features . Both these conditions
aren’t present in Harappan inscriptions.
Nature of Polity
present in Harappan Civilisation . Following things prove the existence of
Uniform culture over such a large area wasn’t possible without central authority.
Granaries at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa where surplus was collected and stored , most probably by the rulers.
Control of labour as indicated by elaborate drainage system, citadels and public buildings which were made by mobilising labour on large scale.
Standardisation , site specialisation and establishment of trading outpost at Shortughai .
Common system of writing across wide area .
FORTIFICATIONS especially imposing ones like Dholavira, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
We have no clear idea of an organized force or standing army, but a heap of sling stones and the depiction of a soldier on a potsherd at Surkotda may suggest a standing army.
Harappan civilisation lasted for 700 years & artefacts continued unaltered which suggests strong political stability .
Side Topic : A Priest King
Mesopotamian & Egyptian civilisations,
rulers were portrayed extensively in stone reliefs & sculptures to proclaim their power . But
Harappan case is strikingly different because here no such things have
been found .
Taking view from Egypt &
Meso Civilisation , stone bust of Male found at Mohenjodaro is given label
of Priest King . However whether he represent
priest or king or both is far from certain.
Contemporary Cultures of the Harappan Civilisation
While the Indus Civilisation
was flourishing in the north-western part of India, several cultures were
developing in different parts of India..
Kashmir was under Neolithic culture during this phase. Sites like Burzahom belong to this phase.
Deccan and Western India
Chalcolithic cultures were prevalent in Deccan and western India.
Chalcolithic culture in the
form of Ganeshwar-Jodhpura culture was prevalent in Rajasthan.
Harappans imported copper from here (Khetri copper mines).
Kerala and Sri Lanka were
still under hunting and gathering
Northern part of South India,
i.e. the Karnataka and Andhra region, had Neolithic cultures, engaged in
pastoralism and plough agriculture.
Harappans used to send
expeditions to South India to import gold especially from region
surrounding Kolar gold fields.
Morphology of Harappan Cities
1 . Mohenjo Daro
RD Banerji (1922)
– It was the second site to be discovered after Harappa. – It was spread over area of 125 Hectare and at it’s peak , used to house population of around 35,000. – Important things excavated here includes 1. Great Bath 2. College of Priests 3. Granary 4. Large Pillared Hall 5. Dancing Girl 6. Pashupati Seal 7. Superficial evidence of horse (although refuted by many historians) 8. Model of ship/large boat
– Problem – water levels in Mohenjodaro has risen high . As a result, it is not possible to determine whether early Harappan levels were present
Dayaram Sahni (1921)
– It was the first site to be discovered . – Important things excavated here include 1. 6 Granaries 2. Cemetery H with urn-burials 3. Large number of wells 4. All other Harappan features like Citadel, sewage system, fortification etc. – Issue : most of the citadel buildings was already destroyed (bricks used in railways & robbed by brick robbers). Clear profile of main citadel is lacking .
Ganganagar district of Rajasthan (India)
Amalanand Ghosh (1953) and BK Thakur (1961)
– Get its name from the thick cluster of black bangles lying all over mounds . – Important things excavated here include 1. Fire Alters – Interpreted as sacrificial pits 2. Ploughed fields – first of its kind in history 3. Black bangles – It wasn’t as well developed as Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Lower town didn’t have well developed drainage system. – It survived till 1800 BCE when Ghaggar river completely dried up
Near Khambat in Gujarat
river & its tributary Bhogavo
SR Rao (1957)
– It was a sea-port . – Although , not big in size but it was economically important . – Important things excavated here include 1. Huge basin / dockyard to dock ships . 2. Evidence of rice husk . 3. Evidence of double burial i.e. man and woman buried together. 4. Fire altars 5. Bead factory
in Gujarat (Rann of Kutch)
– It was a large city spanned over 160 hectares. – It is one of the newest site to be excavated. – Important things excavated here includes 1. Extensive use of stone (instead of bricks). 2. 16 water reservoirs within the walls of city covering 36% of walled area. 3. Largest number of inscriptions have been found here.
Mohenjodaro in Sind (Pakistan)
– It is a small settlement spread in just 7 hectares . – Important things excavated here includes 1. It was important craft centre devoted to bead-making, shell-cutting, metal-working, seal-making and weight-making. 2. It is the only Harappan site without fortifications.
Hissar district of Haryana (India)
– It was large city spread over 350 hectares. – Important things excavated here includes 1. Fire altars like those found at Kalibangan. 2. Redware similar to Dancing Girl.
district of Haryana (India)
Important things excavated here includes 1. Barley of high quality. 2. Fire altars 3. Terracotta model of plough
– It was a small site. – Important things excavated here includes 1. Harappan seals 2. Cemetery where dead were buried. 3. Burial where man was buried with dog.
10 . Rangpur
Lothal in Gujarat
husk found here is important finding .
horse have been excavated from this site.
(Pakistan) on Iran-Pakistan border
– It is the western-most site of Harappan civilization . – Port town with trade links with Mesopotamia and Sumeria.
– It was small site (2 ha). – It was an isolated Harappan site . – Excavations include Pottery with Harappan Designs, Toy carts , Lapis Lazuli , Carnelian , shell bangles etc. – Ploughed field covered with flax in area unsuitable for farming ( dry farming practiced here) . – Small irrigation canals drawing water from Kokcha .
Reason for making an isolated site
1. Lapis Lazuli mines nearby 2. Second Possibility – Tin mines of Afghanistan 3. Third Possibility – role to play in Camel Trade
The decline of Harappan Civilization
It was a gradual decline
Roughly around 1900 BCE, there is a visible change in the
seems to have either perished or moved away . Number of
settlements in Core Harappan areas decreased but number of
settlements in the outlying areas of Gujarat, East Punjab, Haryana and
upper Doab increased (explained by
the emigration of people from the core regions of Harappan Civilisation
to outlying areas) .
In few Harappan sites that
continued to be occupied after 1900 BCE, Material culture underwent a change – a far smaller, and that too more locally exploited raw materials was utilized .
There was disappearance of
weights, seals, special beads, writing, long-distance trade, and
craft specialisation .
Overall, artefacts and settlements indicate a rural way of life in what
are called “Late Harappan”
literature stops referring to Meluha by the end of 1900 BCE .
Many theories are given for the decline of Harappan Civilisation by various scholars
Reason 1: Aryan Invasion
given by Ramaprasad Chanda in 1926 but elaborated by Mortimer Wheeler .
various kinds of forts of Dasas
& Dasyus, attacks
on fortified cities & epithet
Puramdara(fort destroyer) given to Indra reflect
invasion of Aryans on Harappan cities .
mentions a place
called Hariyupiya located on the bank of Ravi where Aryans fought a battle . Name
of the place sounds very similar to that of Harappa. Based on this,
Wheeler concluded that it was the Aryan invaders who destroyed the city.
Historians like George Dale
& BB Lal argue that Rig Veda is a religious text of
uncertain date & taking it as evidence on face value is not correct .
Aryans are unlikely to
have met each other. Harappan Civilisation declined around 1900 BCE whereas Aryans
arrived in India around 1500 BCE.
of military assault have been found . Earlier Deadman
Lane Theory of John Marshall has been discarded . Deadman lane is a street in
Mohenjodaro where dead-bodies of 17 people were excavated. But later it
was found that they didn’t belong to same period. No bodies of warriors clad in armour and
surrounded by the weapons of war have been found. The citadel, the only
fortified part of the city, yielded no evidence of a final defence.
Reason 2 : Fall in Mesopotamian Trade
There was sudden end of long distance land and sea trade with Mesopotamia. Trade in luxurious items like lapis lazuli, beads etc. passed through Elam (located on eastern border of Mesopotamia) . In 2000 BC, Elam emerged as powerful state impacting Harappan exports to Mesopotamia and Mesopotamian Imports including tin to Harappa. Decline of trade led to decline of Harappan Civilisation as well.
Reason 3 : Raike’s Hypothesis – Floods
was famous hydrologist .
He believes that the Harappan civilization declined because of catastrophic
flooding. But such flooding which could
drown buildings 30 feet was not result of normal flooding . Geomorphologically , the Indus area is a disturbed seismic zone. Earthquakes might have raised the level of the flood plains
of the lower Indus river along an axis roughly at right angles . This led to the ponding of the waters of
the river Indus.
Reason 4 : Shifting away of Indus
Indus was unstable river system which altered its
course many times .
River Indus shifted about 30 miles
away from Mohenjodaro. People deserted the area because
they were starved of water.
But this cannot explain the
decline of the Harappan civilization in totality. At best, it can explains
the desertion of Mohenjodaro.
Reason 5 : Drying up of Ghaggar
Ghaggar-Hakra area represented one of the core regions of Harappan civilization. Ghaggar was a mighty stream . Rivers Sutlej and Yamuna used to be the tributaries of this river. Because of some tectonic disturbances, the Sutlej stream was captured by the Indus river and the Yamuna shifted east to join the Ganges. This kind of change in the river regime, which left the Ghaggar waterless, would have catastrophic implication for the towns located in this area.
Reason 6 : Increased Aridity
This theory was given by DP
Aggarwal & Sood .
Basing their conclusions on
the studies conducted in the U.S.A., Australia and Rajasthan , they have
shown that there was an increase
in the arid conditions by the middle of the second millennium B.C. In
semi-arid regions like those of the Harappa, even a minor reduction in
moisture and water availability could spell disaster. It would
affect agricultural production which in turn would put the city economies under stress.
Reason 7 : Ecological Imbalance
“Harappans were over-exploiting their environment through over-cultivation,
over-grazing, and excessive cutting of trees for fuel and farming. This would have resulted
in decreasing soil fertility,
floods, and increasing soil salinity.”
Deforestation was carried out
on large scale for fuel to make bricks. Deforestation also reduced the
rainfall in the area.
To sustain the city
population, agriculture was to be done on large scale decreasing the soil
fertility . Exhaustion of the soil may have diminished cereal production and
starved the urban people.
movement away to other areas was already happening so as to reduce the
pressure on the limited land. Harappan communities moved towards Gujarat
and eastern areas, away from the Indus.
Debate on Terminology : Late
Harappan vs Post Harappan
who are in favour of decline
of Harappan Civilisation prefer to call it Post Harappan Civilisation .
Whereas those who argue for Transformation of Harappan Civilisation call it Late Harappan. Later Harappan terminology is preferred by
most historians now a days.
Scholars working on
the Indus civilization no longer look for the causes of its decline because of the fact that the scholars
who studied the Harappan civilization right upto the 1960s believed that
the collapse of the civilization was sudden. It was towards the end of the
that scholars like Malik and Possehl focused their attention on various aspects of
speaking some changes are observable-
Some of the
settlements were abandoned .
uniform writing, seals, weights and pottery was lost.
showing intensive interaction among the far flung settlements were lost.
In other words the activities
associated with city-centred economies were given up.
But there was
continuity as well.
Three prominent cultures which came after Mature Harappan Phase declined & Localisation Phase started were
1 . Cemetery H
Cemetery H is a
site in Harappa . Here, large Urn Burials dateable to Post Urban Culture were
Cemetery H Culture
on Red pottery with similar shapes of pottery as that of Mature Harappan
Culture , although motifs on
pottery differed .
2. Late Kulli / Jhukar
Found in Southern
Sindh, Chanhu–Daro , Jhukar etc .
Some of typical Harappan elements like Stamp
Seals continued but it was made of Terracotta or Faience .
They were still staying in brick houses but they gave up the planned lay out.
Found in Gujarat . Main sites were Rangpur & Lothal & Prabhas Patan (Somnath) .
There were fewer number of sites and settlements were smaller.
They were using ‘Lustrous Redware’ characterised by bright & burnished slipped surface.
This marks the end of our article on ‘Harappan Civilisation’ .